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Short on storytelling skill or genuine feeling, long on crassly mechanical melodrama: a slow, unconvincing soap opera--about an Italian girl who loves a WW II German officer but 30 years later exposes him as a war-criminal. In 1944, young Anna Miceli of Montefalco (in western Tuscany) falls madly in secret mutual love with Lieutenant Karl Kruger, ""the commanding officer of the entire German garrison!"" But the Germans are fighting a losing battle; and when partisan attacks escalate, loyal-soldier Karl reluctantly carries out Berlin orders to kill 50 local civilians in reprisal--not knowing that the victims include Anna's father and brother. . . or that Anna is pregnant! So, amid war-chaos, the lovers go their separate ways. Anna winds up in a DP camp, is courted by American lawyer Charles Fitzgerald (whose heart belongs to his dead wife), and joins him in a sexless marriage--for the sake of baby son Angelo, who grows up in N.Y. believing that his father was an Italian soldier-hero. (This legacy supposedly turns him into a bloodthirsty Vietnam soldier come the 1960s.) Meanwhile, guilt-stricken Karl deserts, is reported dead, ends up in a POW camp in the US, and becomes a Catholic priest in L.A. Then, in 1972, Anna--now a widow and a hotshot lawyer--just happens to attend mass at Karl's church for a big recognition scene (the creaking of the plot here is deafening); and, spewing vengeance rhetoric, she promptly starts proceedings to get Karl extradited for a war-crimes trial in Italy. Karl, in fact, is so guilt-ridden he almost welcomes his doom--but the Church urges him to avoid the scandal by changing Anna's mind. (One of the many specious notions in this pseudo-righteous novel is an equation between a priest's duty to the Church and the German people's blind faith in Hitler.) So Karl is soon meeting his son, traveling to Montefalco voluntarily, and standing trial--while Anna shifts, predictably but implausibly, from hatred to forgiveness and love. And, after a dubious not-guilty verdict (Karl's attempts to avoid the reprisal-orders are proven), there's an inane happy ending for the cardboard lovers: ""They came together and held, like two souls converging at end of long and separate voyages, coming to the end of one thing and the beginning of another."" An Irwin Shaw or Andrew Greeley could probably have made the potent premise here into something strong and involving. A Danielle Steele could have made it sweetly, romantically inoffensive. But Glasco, author of a soggy homosexual-love-triangle soap (Second Nature, 1981), buries the potential drama in execrable prose and clunkish tear-jerking devices--making this an unsatisfying pop-concoction, despite the story's superficial commercial-appeal. . . and heavy promotion plans.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday