George's Sicilian mother, Anna, first leaves his rather colorless father and then spirits George away from his London school to her mother's home on the slopes of Mt. Etna--she is convinced that this will be ""Nonna's"" last summer and feels compelled to be with her. George has always been drawn to his mother's intense relatives and their culture, although he is aware of their poverty. But he wonders about Anna's plans; he misses his dad and doesn't really want to leave school at age 14 as his cousin Guido did. In her first book for children, adult novelist Tremain's feel for the Mediterranean culture, as contrasted with the cooler English, is reminiscent of Ruiner Godden's; and, as in Godden's stories, the adults' growth in understanding is almost more important than the children's: finally comprehending the strength and value of his wife's feeling for her family, George's dad starts to look after his own aged father, paving the way for reconciliation after a dramatic climax (Etna erupts, Nonna is killed, and Dad flies to Sicily for a loving reunion with the survivors). Rich in detail, well-plotted, and entertaining to read, although there are a few loose ends--notably, George seeing a man who allegedly died in a vendetta, even though no one in the book believes in ghosts.