Strada Stretta sets out to do two things. First, to give “The Gut” a fair hearing by letting it tell its own stories. Second, to take the reader back to the days of the flotta (the fleet refers to warships in harbour and sailors crowding the streets of Valletta) and rescue for posterity some of the charm, sounds and light of the city’s most colourful street. Mr.Cini does this in a straightforward and unpretentious way (indeed this is one of the things I like about the book), by bringing us what are pretty much the transcripts of 18 interviews with some of what remains of the protagonists.
There is much richness in his materials. We learn of women from poorer families who moved to Valletta to make a living, of the charmed lives of the bar and music hall owners, and of the dynamics of a city living off its maritime connections.
I particularly like the sections on music, musicians, and entertainers. The last included Rita Cordina, nicknamed “Sparrow” who apparently could do interesting things with a bottle…
I can well figure why Strada Stretta is flying off the shelves. Mr. Cini has come up with an eminently readable and enjoyable book, one that will go down well especially with people whose family roots go back to Valletta it may not be terribly thorough, but then the Gut was all about a bit of fun – with or without a bottle – in the first place.
Part of a book review – The Times, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 – by Mark-Anthony Falzon, an anthropologist and head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Malta
Keywords: Strait Street