A VALLEY IN ITALY by Lisa St. Aubin de Terán


The Many Seasons of a Villa in Umbria
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 St. Aubin de Ter†n (Nocturne, 1993, etc.) jumps on the Year in Provence bandwagon with this tale of her family's purchase and renovation of a decrepit villa in Italy's Umbria region. The structure of the narrative follows the house's reconstruction and different events in the small village of San Orsola, a place where, unsurprisingly, the neighbors are all friendly caricatures. The laborers working on the house are soulful and slow; the locals all make wine; St. Aubin de Ter†n's daughter and the two Irish au pairs assigned to care for her young son carouse in various discotheques with the expected gang of Italian teenagers. Occasionally there is a spark of originality in the material, usually when a more daring revelation is made, such as, ``Most Italian men publicly touch their genitals at regular intervals, as though to check that they are still there.'' Generally, however, St. Aubin de Ter†n follows the party line. The prose has some lapses into preciousness--her teenage daughter is referred to as ``the child Iseult'' throughout--but mostly it coasts along on the very familiarity of the material. St. Aubin de Ter†n frustrates most with her too-fleeting glimpses of her past. She refers briefly to a period of work on a Venezuelan sugar plantation, as well as to a disastrous first marriage, but for a book that purportedly centers on a family and their home, there is very little in the way of personal information. For example, she reveals that she, her husband, her daughter, and her son all bear different surnames, and later, when she becomes pregnant, points out that it is her husband's first child, without further explanation. While there is nothing offensively bad here, this tepid volume offers little that will not be familiar to readers of Tim Parks's Italian Neighbors (1992).

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-016886-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1994


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