Tonia Parronchi

William Wood, Author

This is a book to be read slowly and relished: there are many layers to enjoy. At its heart lies the unfolding story of Ann, the central figure (if you discount the numinous Cypress tree) who escapes an unhappy English childhood and gradually grows to blossom in Italy. There she achieves a spiritual awakening and comes to terms with her own special gifts.
    At its simplest level the narrative that perhaps drives the reader on is the gentle but passionate love story between Ann and Joe. Their slowly developing relationship is warm and sensual and most beautifully described. This alone makes for a good story.
    There is, though, much, much more. As the title suggests, the Cypress is the essential ingredient, more important even than the love story that it embraces. For in her spiritual awakening, and through Fiametta, a feral old woman who befriends her, Ann learns to listen to the song of the Cypress. Through it she discovers that she has an unrealised gift,  finding she has psychic and healing powers of her own. From Fiametta she learns the practical uses of the woodland flora and eventually she inherits what some of the villagers call Fiametta’s witchcraft. Both women are in thrall to the tree which itself has a strong, mystical voice in the story. Joe and his adorable dog, Luna, however, keep Ann well grounded in the pleasures of the every day.
    Tonia Parronchi has great powers herself, not least a wonderful gift for description. She evokes the changing seasons in great detail, she vividly paints the characters in the village and she persuasively lets us listen to the song of the tree. She brings to life the two houses she inhabits and the woods around them. Whether she is matter-of-factually describing the mundane acts of applying make-up, shopping for clothes, or whether she is evoking nature or sharing her account of the physical passion of love, she brings to it all a certain enchantment. The book could also quite separately be mined for the recipes of provincial Italian cuisine, (something the author has done explicitly in another book, A Whisper on The Mediterranean).
    This reader, though not of a religious persuasion, has nevertheless drunk from the spiritual well of healing nature. Some of the flights of fancy, (sometimes literal flights!) in this narrative, however, require some effort in the suspension of disbelief. Nevertheless Tonia’s alter ego, Ann, speaks so convincingly that the experiences she recounts seem quite natural. Even so, some of the villagers see her as a white witch, which in the truest sense she becomes.
    The Cypress tree is the divine power behind it all, its songs interpreted and passed on by Fiametta to Ann and in turn to her daughter. Tonia is a very accomplished writer, skilled at plotting, clever with words and a good storyteller, but I wondered how this book would end. Her solution is deft and immensely satisfying.

I've just finished Song of the Cypress. You have such a gentle 'voice', so unusual in this pacey, racey age and so very welcome. I did love your book, and the characters, especially (of course) Fiammetta who inhabits us all in the wild-women depths of our cellular memory. And the voice of the cypress - pure genius to let her voice drift through the reader at the start of every chapter. More and more I prayed the cypress would survive! I am so glad she did.
Great website too, so attractive and easy to navigate.
So I just wanted to add my appreciation for a day well spent in your company - curled up on my sofa on this inevitable grey day to read it from cover to cover. Perfect, just perfect.
Thank you so much for writing it.

Zoe D'Ay 


 This is the second book of Tonia's that I read, I just love her writing, she is able to describe things in such a vivid way that I can actually visualize them. "The Cypress" got me reading again, since then I haven't stopped. While reading it I wanted to more and more, I didn't want to stop as I wanted to find out about the story but at the same time I didn't want to go too fast because I would have finished it. Very rarely have I found books that make me feel like I'm actually part of it, living the story as if it were part of my real life, and when it happens I don't want to let it go; while I was reading it, thoughts of Anne, Joe, Fiammetta and all the other characters would come into my mind while I was at work or at home doing something boring and take me into their lovely world, an ancient Tuscan feeling of true people, real tastes, country fairs. I can still visualize through Tonia's descriptions those beautiful hills in the mist and the secret places that those beautiful hills can hide, through the Cypress I visualized all the history that those hills have been testimony of through the centuries.
Toni you've brought back the pleasure of reading, thank you.   

Patricia Baldwin


Complimenti per il tuo libro cosi bello e poetico. Mi è piaciuto la descrizione della vita in Toscana, della gente e della natura in quale ho riconosciuto la Toscana, che vedo e vivo anch’io.  M’a fatto tanto piacere leggere un libro sulla Toscana nel quale l’autrice descrive la gente del posto con rispetto e amore. ( Ne ho letti troppi di autori americani, tedeschi, inglesi e altri che danno l’impressione che vivono in terreno colonizzato da loro e che vedono gli indigeni dai piedistalli della loro presunta superiorità.)   

Maria Therese 


Hello Toni, your party sounded lovely. I'm not surprised people were clamouring for a signed copy, because it's a fine book. I finished it last week and it's inspired all sorts of ideas in my head. First of all, getting the book into audio format (he is a sound recordist) Other thoughts - I'd love to know more about Fiammetta. She's an amazing character - I connect with her most in the book, and I definitely would have been Pietro, both young and old. Some people are never to be forgotten, and Fiammetta is one of them - One day maybe you could write about her, and whoever passed the flame to her. I've long been fascinated by herbalism, ever since reading Elis Peters' Cadfael books. Right now I'm looking for courses to do to enhance my massage skills. Last year I tried Thai Yoga massage, and had to give up. It didn't suit me, and seemed too much like "Twister" for my liking. I'm hoping find a course in medieval herbalism, or something like that. It's funny where life drags us. 15 years ago, I was a pot-bellied, meat eating beer drinker, who wouldn't be able to massage anyone without breaking bones, and now I'm a vegan, teetotal, holistic - all of which I thought was totally alien to my character. I like the way you can get under the skin of the various characters in the book. The book's also stimulated me to think about life and stuff - for months I've just had my head in my work worries. When I was a kid I remember finding a slim volume in the library about astral projection, and was fascinated by it. I've never projected myself, but I very much believe it's possible, in the way you describe. Also I'm interested in the "life force". My own view was shaped by a sweet scene in a Cary Grant film called Houseboat. I reckon we're like raindrops. When we're born, the raindrop leaves the cloud and begins to fall, and that fall is the journey of life. When we die, the raindrop hits the ocean, and later floats up as evaporated water into the cloud again, and so the cycle continues. So that's my rather simplistic metaphor that helps me sleep at night. However Maggie asked what happens if the raindrop dashes the rocks, so it's got me thinking again.   

Rex Brough


I enjoyed this book immensely.  It has beautiful descriptive, poetic style and it is easy to get into the story and to identify with the main characters.  I loved the essence of the story _ the connection with earth and nature and the love for natural elements.  I found it spiritual and calming, with an inspiring quality.  I will treasure it and read it again.  It has inspired me to find out more about Tuscany  and the way of life there, so I will do a little research of my own!  Beautifully written. 

 Joan Cooper


I have read Tonia's beautiful book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Tonia has a gift.  I hope she continues to use it.  Lovely, my Dear! and transcending... eloquent words to the inspirations of many of my paintings... & the Goddess in us all!!!   

Caroline Zimmermann 


I want to tell you that after I received the copy of your book I felt really strongly to lend it to a friend to read which I did (reluctantly and telling her it was a treasure!) ......when she returned it to me she told me that she had loved it and it had moved and touched her more deeply than any book she had read!!!


Themah Carolle Casey 


Now I know why you love living in Tuscany. I could feel the breeze on my skin when I was reading.


Susan Brown


I read until late at night, until I was too tired to read on and then I dreamt about what I had read. Fiammetta invaded my head and I kept having to force myself not to read the end to make sure whether it had a happy ending or not.


Anne England


 A few days ago I finished to read your book which I took with me every time I had to go to Rome to see my dentist.I really liked it. It's a very special story, not even a moment in which I could not feel pleasure. I liked the way you describe with so much love and respect every single plant, you bring to life every person and see the particularity in each season.

Christina Huber


I took your book with me to France and just wanted to tell you that, once I had got into it, I could not put it down!  I really liked the different "voices" interwoven throughout and it appealed to my hormonal self at the moment too.  I had to wipe away a few tears towards the end!  Thank you for my holiday reading.

Helen Zachs


 I finished your book at 8.30am this morning, and I have to tell you how much I enjoyed it, in fact it is a long time since I have enjoyed a book so much. There were days when, even if I didn't have a lot of spare time, I had to sneak a couple of pages to see how things were going with Ann and Joe, and all the other lovely characters that I so identified with. I found the theme of the book very moving as well; in fact there were times when I felt I wanted to zoom over to Tuscany and visit the cypress myself.  Your comment on Fiametta and the writing of the story is interesting, as I have experienced the same. I wrote a novel some years ago, and found there came a point when the characters started to write the story themselves - quite early on! It was totally unexpected, and in the end I just went along with it, thoroughly enjoying the exhilarating experience. So I do understand how Fiametta worked her way into your story. Writing is such a joy, isn't it! And it is what keeps me putting pen to paper, or fingers on keyboard.

Ann Matkins


 I have begun to read your book and I like your writing style.  There is a softness to your writing and you never over play a sentence.  You end when enough has been said and you leave room for the reader to ponder, to absorb and to form their own picture.

Sir Keith Pearson


I just finished your book!  It brought back a lot of memories of Tuscany...I admire you very much for having a dream and making it come true.  So many of us have things that we would love to do but we don't see them through.  You did.  Congratulations and I look forward to the sequel!



I have read your book and I really enjoyed it. I read many sorts of books but in the last few years its been mainly, fast moving, historical, murder suspense. Even my own book races away at an alarming speed. So when I started your book - it was quite strange for me at first, I felt like I was being physically pulled back and made to take it easy. You totally won me over with your slow, honey trap of emotions - both on this plane and a higher level. I know that there is a lot of you in Annie - and looking at your website, I'm guessing a lot of your husband in Joe and also Stella in Luna. It wasn't long before I yearned to be walking in the woods - or sampling the delights of the shops in the colourful  little towns. I could feel the wondrous healing of the sun and, just as easily, feel the relief of the soothing and life-giving, rain. I genuinely hungered, and I mean literally, for the taste of mushrooms and garlic, fresh bread and hunks of cheese, and wine. You made me realize that inside this manic, hectic, harassed and overstretched persona, there's a woman who, like Annie, would like to be calm, intuitive, at peace with herself and nature. It  is a wonderful book - full of deep peace, written by a woman who is genuinely happy and at peace with herself. I am going to pass it on to my mum, as I know she will also love it - in fact, there were times when I saw her face as Annie - as she is also another soul in tune with the world.

Drew Kinayle

I belong to 2 book clubs each different from the other.  Book club #1 - I am by far the oldest member.   We have members with young children, members who are professionals, members in the arts and in business. Although I  am the oldest member in club #2, most of the members are close to my age and most are retired.  I will recommend The Song of the Cypress" to both bookclubs.  Not only is the book a good and entertaining read, it has a "learning and message" to it.  After finishing it in 3 days, the book has stayed with me. 

Laura Williams




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