Despite the less-than-scintillating title, De Silva has crafted a sharp-edged comedic novel of a semi-hapless Italian lawyer, Vincenzo Malinconico.
Vincenzo is 42, and his life is unraveling. He’s an unsuccessful counselor with a failed marriage (to Nives, a psychologist) and two adolescent children he doesn’t understand. But then things begin to happen. He has an opportunity to defend a member of the Mafia, Mimmo 'o Burzone—though at first he turns down the case. He then spends some time brushing up on his law skills, which have sadly deteriorated from years of desuetude. About this same time he finds out that a knockout celebrity lawyer, Alessandra Persiano, might be lusting after him—and he can’t quite believe his good luck. But the book doesn’t present a tight narrative line. It’s really about the comic perception of Vincenzo, whose skewed vision of the world is both insightful and wry. Early in the novel, for example, he notes: “I’m an inconsistent narrator. I’m not a narrator you can rely on. I’m too interested in incidental considerations that can take you off track”—and, one might add here, way off track. He fantasizes for pages about what he’d like to say to his estranged wife, and when he finally beds the comely Alessandra, he starts thinking about St. Francis of Assisi. De Silva’s strength lies in the creation of Vincenzo’s unique and self-deprecating voice; his awareness of his status as a cuckold (because his wife is having an affair with Emilio, an egregious architect); and his ultimate triumph over the pettiness that has consistently marred his life.
Comic exuberance on a grand scale.