PERSONAL EFFECTS by Francesca Duranti


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 Hunting for literary treasure is again the subject of a Duranti novel; in The House on Moon Lake (1986), this Italian author's debut, the quarry was a lost masterpiece; in her slim third novel, it's an elusive Eastern European writer. The sleuth is Valentina Barbieri, a 30-year-old Milanese whose ego is as fragile as that of her counterpart in Moon Lake. For ten years she's been husband Riccardo's right arm, researching his lucrative series of biographies of the Church Fathers; now Riccardo has left her for a ``chic new girlfriend,'' and Valentina must create her identity from scratch. Prodded by her feminist mother, she decides to write an article on Milos Jarco, the hot young Slav author. Easier said than done, though. She gets a friendly enough reception at the Writers' Union in Jarco's hometown behind the still-hanging Iron Curtain, but there's no hard information on the ``man [who] went from nonexistence to world fame in a flash''; even his whereabouts are a mystery. Valentina's questions attract the attention of the eavesdropping authorities--and the more welcome attention of handsome young poet Ante Radek. The futile search for Jarco takes a backseat to Ante's courtship, as the unassailably pure young Communist inveighs against the depraved Western appetite for possessions (embodied in Riccardo) while begging Valentina to stay. This friendly spy-turned-lover ends by telling Valentina the truth about Jarco in a flat, long-winded denouement. Duranti's story runs out of steam early on, and the clunky conversations about Having and Being never mesh with the narrative. Disappointing.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41104-6
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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