SEE NAPLES: A Memoir by Douglas Allanbrook

SEE NAPLES: A Memoir

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Returning to Naples in his 70s, musician Allanbrook makes as much of his effete student reminiscences as he does of his harrowing experiences in WW II. For an account that would normally rely on history and geography, Allanbrook instead takes a highly subjective route through his memories of the Italian campaign's tedious carnage, buttressed with his postwar reflections of a Fulbright music scholarship in Naples. His book opens with the second of his Neapolitan experiences, when he was stretching out his scholarship money to woo (and be wooed by) a Laura of un-Petrarchan possessiveness and to enjoy Italian life in general. Although his affections wavered and eventually wandered to another Italian woman, he took constant note of the effects of the war he had helped to fight, as much on the people as on the landscape. In both periods Allanbrook draws penetrating sketches of the people around him, whether the social mores of Laura's extended family or the more delicate links in the military chain of command, but his regretful self-analysis of his early love affair and his military role still have a touch of the sophomoric. In recounting the Allied push from Salerno to the Gothic Line, he takes a mordant grunt's-eye view of the inconsistent campaign, the tense boredom of marching across the Apennines, and the sporadic slaughter under mortars and machine guns. But as an intellectual and something of an outsider, his relationships with his fellow infantrymen remain problematic, despite the camaraderie of men under fire. Although he strikes up friendships with a lyc‚e-educated Arab in North Africa and an intelligent West Point officer, he remains haunted by a call in the middle of the night from a bunkmate, which he did not answer. As often aloof as it is acute, Allanbrook's debut is a medley of army life, youthful wistfulness, and nostalgia that engages the reader but sometimes falls flat.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1995
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin