An intriguing romance—and Italian journalist Riotta’s first to appear in English translation.
Amid the tumult of post–WWII Sicily, an uncommon alliance is forged between a pair of young lovers and a retired colonel whose encyclopedic knowledge of battle strategy has given him a unique take on life. Colonel Terzo, whose command of military tactics and motivation is so sweeping that he knows before the war starts that the Axis will lose, spends his war years following the campaigns across Europe and Africa from a safe distance, without ever being allowed to go into combat. After the war he marries a beautiful White Russian princess, Emma, suspected of espionage, and settles with her in Palermo to write his long-awaited masterwork, the Manual for Strategic Living, in which he will bring all of the strategies tested in battle throughout history to bear on the struggles of daily life. Before long he's distracted from his work by Emma's further intrigues, this time in the service of love, as she joins together under their roof the commoner Salvatore, ardent poet and Communist, and the free-spirited Duchess's daughter Fiore. Terzo is to instruct young Salvatore in military history, while she takes Fiore under wing as a companion. Terzo will refuse the woman he loves nothing, most especially since they've just learned that she’s dying rapidly from cancer. But this particular strategy for romantic engagement leads to an all-out war, as the Colonel, Emma, and the lovers are caught up in a peasant rebellion and Terzo has to use all his tactical know-how to save them, and the peasants, from annihilation–a task at which he only partially succeeds.
While marching to the beat of a different drummer, Riotta’s love story charms and warms the heart, even if the Colonel is stuffed too full of battle lore at times.