Time passes slowly but agreeably in expat Italian first-novelist Odone's lovingly evoked village in the Italian Piedmont, where memories are long and traditions as much a part of life as the changing of the seasons. Not much seems to change in San Lorenzo, a village set in the foothills of the Alps. The gypsies still arrive each summer for the local festa; each night, as the air cools, the housewives promenade round the square; and the seemingly wealthy Ferrati family still owns the fields and vineyards stretching beyond the large house standing at the edge of the village. But change is as inevitable as the end of summer, and the inhabitants of San Lorenzo are no more immune than others less picturesquely situated. These quiet but substantial changes and their consequences are the substance of Odone's story. Alma and brother Francesco are the last of the Ferratis, but when their father, a forceful and colorful character, dies, they've got to sell the land because he invested unwisely--which doesn't displease ambitious matriarch and burgeoning landowner Franca, who buys the Ferrari property. Alma, an artist who also lives in Turin, and Francesco, an unhappily married publisher in London, are comforted that they at least still have the house they love. As the year passes, the villagers decide to build a shrine to capitalize on the visions of the Virgin Mary pious young Santarella claims to have seen, but neither the Bishop nor Santarella will cooperate; Alma has an affair with a friend of Francesco's who still lives in San Lorenzo; Francesco, torn between London and Italy, finds his marriage improving. When the siblings learn of more debts their father incurred, they realize they can no longer keep even the house, and accept with grace that the San Lorenzo part of their lives is ended. A beautifully crafted debut novel with a perfect Merchant-Ivory quality, putting place and atmosphere, rather than overheated action, center-stage.
Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1996
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson--dist. by Trafalgar