Naive, romantic young Roman succumbs to moral, psychosexual disillusionment--in a short, dark novel that's densely packed...

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Naive, romantic young Roman succumbs to moral, psychosexual disillusionment--in a short, dark novel that's densely packed with literary devices (epistolary fragments, novel-within-novel excerpts), gothicky family secrets, and rather murky thematic preoccupations. Carlo, the 25-year-old narrator, is disenchanted with ""liberated"" girlfriend Angelica, unnerved by the wry advances of homosexual chum Matteo--so, in search of ""romantic salvation,"" he leaves Rome for a strange job on the semi-desolate Calabrian seacoast. Hired to ""organize"" the library of a rich local family, Carlo finds himself virtually alone in a creepy mansion, idle and confused, haunted by mysterious piano music. He does at last meet his employer: arthritic, cynical Don Diego, who wants Carlo to sift through piles of old books for any sign of a will executed by Diego's older brother Liborio (now dying). More family history--ill-gotten wealth, another brother's ghastly suicide, fraternal cuckholding--comes disjointedly from tire crazed local priest, an exhibitionistic lecher. Then Carlo sets eyes on the clan's secret hostage: elusive pianist Lucia, Liborio's illegitimate daughter, whose rights of inheritance might interfere with family plans for grandiose land-development. And Carlo instantly surrenders himself to this girlish sprite--only to fred that his passion is nothing but lustful obsession, that he's just one of the depraved Lucia's many sex-slaves. He also learns, in the book's lurching closing chapters, that he has been a passive dupe in the family's criminal machinations. (""Life,"" concludes the imprisoned Carlo, ""is still vast, uncertain, and beyond explanation. . . it is a novel, even a prison. . ."") The unfolding of dreadful secrets here is bumpy yet predictable. The central portrait--would-be novelist as erotic, philosopher seeker--is generic, unengaging, and often implausible. So, despite patches of moodily eccentric dialogue and earthy horror, this is a blurred and sluggish blend of coming-of-age cliches with European melodrama.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Mercury--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1988