Not quite as chichi a circle as S P Q R, but again Rome, its high noon of elegance and indolence and sinuous charm lend a worldly lure to the life of the American abroad- this time in civil service offices and news agencies, rather than the consulate. And for the expatriate, there is always the dubiety of exile which stretches beyond a point of return- particularly for Bertin- whose career is following the descendent of the ""decreasing news importance"" of this city, while his Italian wife holds him to her native grounds. There's Shadwell, a once great American writer, in the last chapter of his life as he fights his fear of death- from cancer- with the superstition of a coin thrown in the fountain; there's Anita, an Agency secretary, who falls in love with an Italian but shies from marriage; Burgoyne, who heads the Agency, and in his bureaucratic social controls is not above insular snobbism and malicious scandal; etc. etc. The several stories here make up a narrative which has its staying power without the Borgian intrigue of the current best seller, and once again the eternal city provides its pleasures of the flesh as well as some more lasting concerns.