Take a wealthy American divorcee-and-daughter team, stick them in an Italian island resort on the order of a depopulated Capri, make the mother (Barbara) hit the sack with the town's former sole Resistance leader (Vito), and the daughter (Stephanie) with a self-styled mystic in retreat from his wife, and what do you get? A setting for castrated priests, plucked-out eyes (Vito's), daughter's death and the mystic's metaphorical castration (via underwater anti-fish grenades) -- all a symbolic preparation for the decline and fall (i.e. commercialization) of the island, what with consequent notoriety and the pilgrimages of Stephanie's hippie friends to see the guru who was her final lover. For all that the novel is written more like the self-conscious intellectualized product of a creative writing class than a textbook for sensationalism, with its endless adolescent musings (Stephanie's) and World War II flashbacks -- strong and gutsy and confused but almost impossible to read. This is a sophisticated improbable tale of violence and upper-class decadence, a little heavy on the sturm und drang, worth reading for those who have the stomach and the patience and the time.