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Titel: Italian Fever
Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included
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A secluded Tuscan villa, a mysterious death, a missing manuscript, a whiff of a ghost, and a smart young American woman tumbling helplessly into an unexpected affair--these are the ingredients of this beguiling and acutely observed new novel by the author of Mary Reilly.
Lucy Stark--clever, pragmatic, capable--is the assistant to a best-selling but remarkably untalented writer named DV, who has spent the last several months in Tuscany searching for inspiration. One morning in Brooklyn, as Lucy sits at her desk reluctantly reading the first half of DV's latest novel, she receives a startling phone call: DV is dead, and the circumstances are suspicious. Soon Lucy finds herself in Italy, where her search for the rest of DV's manuscript leads her into the thick of various mysteries. Was DV murdered, or just the victim of his own stupidity? Was the ghost story he was writing pure fantasy, or did it hint at a darker reality?
Is the devastating, married Massimo, who cares for Lucy in ways no one has before, as dangerously in love with her as she is with him?
Part mystery, part romance, part meditation on the maddening but redemptive power of art, Italian Fever is a supremely satisfying novel: a funny, insightful portrait of the American abroad, and an irresistible exploration of our perpetual love affair with Italy.
Italian Fever is a strange soufflé--half mystery and half squib on American innocence and European experience. In Brooklyn, Lucy Stark, an author's assistant who has "come to prefer liberty to passion," despairs over her boss's latest manuscript. "DV's books were always awful, but what made this one worse than the others was the introduction of a new element, which was bound to boost sales: There was a ghost in the villa. DV had gone gothic." But then the phone rings, and she learns that DV will scribe no more, having died under strange circumstances in Ugolino. At least his demise will afford Lucy a vacation of sorts--a stay in Tuscany so that she can identify his body, sort through his effects, and perhaps divine the cause of his death.
Of course, from the moment her plane lands, she suffers from cultural disorientation, and worse. Why, exactly, is her handsome if humorless chauffeur, Massimo, so solicitous? Why is DV's villa in fact a farmhouse? And are its proprietors, the Cinis, conspiring to keep her from the truth? Then there are Lucy's Nancy Drew-like discoveries--a terrifying drawing of DV and a mysterious love letter. And is the scratching at the walls a sign from DV's ghost or something more quotidian? All in all, our heroine can't sort out hallucination from Italian provocation, which is all too much for someone who has long prided herself on her clear sight.
Though Valerie Martin's seventh novel has its share of stomach-clenching moments, it is most successful in its many comic scenes (not something this talented author has hitherto been known for). Whether Lucy is trying to break through Massimo's defenses or get to the bottom of the Cinis' behavior, she is usually miles from the truth. Meanwhile, Martin offers up a host of memorable minor figures, from DV's ultrasophisticated New York publisher to the quail-consuming, epigram-spouting Antonio Cini, who gets most of the good lines. When Lucy tells him that she's forever in Massimo's debt, he languidly responds: "Forever, that must be a tiresome sensation." Though Italian Fever is never in the least tiresome, its biggest mystery is how Martin--who has written so strikingly of possession in The Great Divorce--is here far stronger on satire than the supernatural. --Kerry Fried
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