Monday 10 July 2023

Meet the Listener Steve Capelin on ABC Radio 2009

A blast from the past. This link takes you to the ABC Radio Australia archives. It's an interview I did with Richard Aedy about this blog. A potted history of my life to that date in 2009. Fascinating to listen to yourself almost fifteen years on.

Family History and Fiction Writing


Family History and Fiction Writing
Writers and family historians among you may be interested in the following discussion which was between myself and the Sydney based Society of Australian Genealogists (The Writers Group). We discussed the process and challenges associated with using family history as the basis for fiction writing. It's two hours of lively conversation. Hope it's useful. Enjoy.

Melbourne Book Launch 2023

 It took almost eighteen months but Paradiso A Novel eventually arrived in Melbourne for a covid delayed launch.Thanks to the support of Co.As.It. Melbourne, Readings Books and The Veneto Club, Bulleen, Melbourne the trip south was a great success.

Co.As.It. Italian Museum, Carlton Tuesday 21 February 2023

Sixty people attended the first event at the Co.As.It. Italian Museum in Carlton. The audience was a mix of Italians with some knowledge of this story, lovers of Italy and Italian culture and a smattering of friends and personal connections. My co-presenter was well known Melbourne academic Ilma Martinuzzi O'Brien who has a connection to the story through one of the major characters and has done a mountain of work on Italian Australian history. We entertained the audience for an hour with stories which lay behind this novel and some lively questions from the floor. And we sold some books (thanks to Readings). Paolo Baracchi the Cultural Programs Manager at Co.As.It. described the book as "indeed a remarkable, foundational Italian Australian story."                                           

The Veneto Club Thursday 23 February 2023

The Veneto Club event was quite different. Where the Co.As.It. gig was free, The Veneto Club was a paid event and it sold out. Again, Ilma and I did a double act but this time to an audience heavily invested in this Venetian story. Most knew little but were eager to learn. a few were descendants, one of whom was a second cousin I'd never met (his grandmother and my grandfather were siblings). Before we began we were overrun with people wanting to buy copies of the book sight unseen. That was a great start to the night. Many in the audience knew the Italian villages where this story began, all were fascinated that such an unusual story could happen under their noses and yet be so little known. They had me on my toes. 

In the final wrap-up my second cousin rose to his feet, a dog-eared copy of Paradiso in his hand, marked with multiple post-it-notes. I was nervous. Was this the moment that my research would be revealed as wanting? Would he be about to criticise me for including his relatives without his permission? None of the above. He had marked all the pages where his ancestors (Spinaze) had been mentioned and in his short speech went on to give his opinion about the importance of the book to him personaly, and to Australian history. It was the best sales pitch I could have asked for and a lovely way to end the evening.

The book is (to date) stocked by Readings at all three of their Melbourne stores.

Friday 5 August 2022

Sydney Book Launch of Paradiso A Novel July 2022

A great book launch in Sydney. Fifty book lovers turned out on a Thursday night in the middle of a squally Sydney winter to share an hour and a half with Nick Fury and myself at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt.

Nick and I are old clown mates from way back, so as well as telling some good stories of Italy and travel, and little known aspects of this 19th century Italian-Australian story, we also managed to revisit a few old clown moments. The audience was a little bemused to begin with but warmed up quickly and understood that book launches could be both informative and funny.

Thanks to Co.As.It. and the Sydney Italian Cultural Institute for agreeing to support this event. The result was a mixed audience of descendants, local Italian community members (hi to Joe at Bar Sport who came along with his two daughters) and some general Sydney-siders who were all interested in this remarkable story. In retrospect I must apologize to any native Italian speakers who might have not thought my mock Italian was as funny as I did. It was the best I could do, having lost the language two generations back when speaking English was the only way to fit in.

The novel is now available at the following Sydney Book Stores:

Berkelouw Books. Leichhardt

Abbey's Bookshop,York St Sydney

Gleebooks, Glebe

Gleebooks, Dulwich Hill

Better Read than Dead, Newtown

There is also a spare copy at Anthony Albenese's Electoral Office in Marrickville. I suspect he won't get around to reading it for a couple of terms of Parliament. He seems pretty busy.

Saturday 5 March 2022

 Paradiso is now available in Sydney at "Better Read Than Dead" - King St, Newtown AND "Abbey's Bookshop", York St,  City.

A Sydney book launch is planned for July hosted by Co.As.It (Italian Welfare League), Norton Street, Leichhardt. 


My family links to Norton Street run deep so it will be special.  My grandfather and his brother ran a very successful fruit and vegetable business at the corner of Parramatta Rd and Norton Street between 1905 and 1915. They married two Irish sisters who lived a few blocks away and then things went pear shaped.  It's central to the book I'm currently working on. 

Here's my mate Nick reading Paradiso at Annandale. He's one of my Sydney agents.


Saturday 19 February 2022

Paradiso Review by Cass Moriarty


A beautifully written historical account of the real-life migration of 300 Italian peasants in 1880, Paradiso (AndAlso Books 2021) by Steve Capelin is rich in detail and description, and captures a time of adventure, hope, sacrifice, betrayal, tribulation and resilience. 

Full review:
Paradiso (AndAlso Books 2021) by Steve Capelin is a beautifully written account of a particular historical time and place, exploring the harsh reality of life 150 years ago, the human drive and determination to succeed and flourish and to provide a better life for your family, and a tale of adventure (or misadventure) on the high seas. The novel (inspired by or based on real-life events from the author’s family) features immersive and evocative imagery of setting and place. Capelin describes the light, the sky, the sea, the landscape in a captivating way that allows the reader to be fully immersed in the story.

Set predominately in 1880, this is the true saga of 300 Italian peasants who abandon their lives and connections to join a French expedition which promises wealth, freedom and prosperity in a Pacific colony. Capelin is a descendant of this expedition, and his diligent research has informed the book with significant details that depict what the migrants would have seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelt, experienced and felt. The prose is amplified by meticulous editing by Bianca Milroy. 

The story features Lorenzo Perin who is prepared to risk everything, and his wife Caterina, who is not so optimistic, and is told through the alternating voices of their two children, eight-year-old Dominic and his older sister, Marietta. Dominic yearns for adventure while his sister would like to escape her life of obligation. But when they arrive in New Guinea – a totally foreign land and climate, peopled with natives, animals and plants that are strange to them – it is apparent that the expedition has not been as well planned or well-resourced as the peasants were promised. Supplies dwindle; disease and illness take hold. What begins as a hopeful dream becomes a harsh nightmare of hunger, sickness, dashed expectations and death. 

There is a large cast of characters in this novel, so that I had trouble keeping up with them all; sometimes the names/personalities blended together. But the stable thread of the voices of Dominic and Marietta propel the story forward as the reader discovers, along with the two children, the challenges and difficulties they must confront. Much of the story takes place on one of several sea journeys, and these are depicted with a minutiae of exactly which tools and implements, food and clothing, tasks and work would have predominated. 

The last chapter is set in 1918 in Australia, when Dominic is an adult, and although I could see the author’s theme in connecting the earlier migrant experience with the treatment of Italian migrants during World War I, this felt a little disconnected to me, almost as if this could be a completely other book. Perhaps Capelin will develop this plot line into another book, because it is certainly rich material, but quite separate from the main body of the story. 

The themes of sacrifice, betrayal, love, friendship, familial obligation, religion, resilience, hope, freedom and escape are navigated with authentic relationships within families, within the wider group and between the migrants and the people they meet along the way. This is obviously a story that has been researched and written with an intense devotion and a determination to pay homage to the author’s ancestors and the challenges they faced. 

The most impressive aspect of this book, besides the research, is the writing. Capelin has a real gift for interpreting dialogue, actions and events of the past with authenticity, and his prose is lyrical and detailed. He takes us into the hearts and minds of these weary travellers and gives us a vivid, first-hand account. This fictionalised account of true events will appeal to history buffs, to anyone interested in migration and emigration, to those keen to know more about life in the late 1800’s, and to those who enjoy stories about families and communities who exit one life and embrace another in the hope of a better future. 

Friday 17 September 2021

Launch of Paradiso

 AVID Reader window display. Wonderfully generous people. Launch on tonight, 9 July despite Covid restrictions.