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by Laura Fraser

Pub Date: June 7th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-42065-7
Publisher: Pantheon

A freelance journalist’s wry, charming account of her intermittent affair with a romantic stranger.

Fraser (Losing It, 1997) opens her memoir with the phrase that transfixes her as she sits in an adult-ed Italian class: Mi hai spaccato il cuore (You have broken my heart). Her recovery from the collapse of her marriage (her husband of one year has dumped her for his high school sweetheart) begins with an impulsive trip to Ischia, in the south of Italy. Her spirits rebound amazingly when a fling with a Parisian art professor develops into a sequence of episodes in a variety of picturesque spots, including the Italian Alps, London, the Aeolian Islands, Marrakesh, and her hometown of San Francisco. The author paints each encounter in elegant and luxurious detail: The landscapes, hotel rooms, meals, scents, and sounds that she evokes in meticulous second-person prose get, and deserve, as much attention as her evolving relationship with the professor. Unsurprisingly, sensuous lovemaking, spectacular Mediterranean scenery, and sumptuous dinners gradually restore the author’s confidence and sense of well-being. Throughout an account that might easily have degenerated into self-indulgence, the writer’s voice remains remarkably brisk and clear-eyed, neither idealizing her occasional lover nor sentimentalizing her own emotional journey. If she has few startling insights to offer about heartbreak or healing, and if her solution is not easily imitated, the smart one-liners and unpretentious, witty asides that pepper the narrative are more than ample compensation. “You aren’t prepared for this,” she confides, recounting her first night with her lover. “You grew up being reminded that you should always wear nice clean underwear in case you have to go to the doctor suddenly, but no one ever said anything about wearing sexy ones in case you run into a French aesthetics professor on an island.” But with or without the right underwear, Fraser emerges triumphant and zestful.

A delightful fantasy, generously shared.