All roads lead to Rome for three dizzy duos in this meditation on the nature of love.
An aggregation of confused visitors careens around Rome in a second novel by Babe: Pig in the City co-screenwriter Lamprell (The Full Ridiculous, 2014). Alice, a 19-year-old New Yorker, has stopped over in the Eternal City on her way to meet her lackluster fiance but instead falls in lust with August, a British student on a Motorino scooter. Alec and Meg, a warring married couple from Los Angeles, are at each others’ throats from the moment they arrive at the Rome airport. At Meg’s behest, the well-heeled spouses have flown to Rome for the day on “a mission” to find a specific tile with magical qualities for their home. (Metaphor alert!) Constance, a septuagenarian Londoner, has brought her recently departed husband, Henry, to the city with her, lugging his ashes in a Harrods bag. Accompanied by Lizzie, her forbearing sister-in-law, Constance intends to throw Henry’s remains off the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge as Henry requested. The tourists run around Rome in concentric circles, making muddled messes of their lives. But the travelers are not to be pitied; rather, the author uses the lightly sketched characters as vehicles for bons mots. Although the narrator describes himself as the spirit of Rome itself, a “genius loci,” in truth the storytelling ping pongs crazily from one character’s perspective to the next. The most successfully drawn people are Alec and Meg; Lamprell has perfect pitch when it comes to marital discord. (“It occurred to Alec that he could kill her, dispose of her body, and be back in California before anyone had even noticed she was missing.”) But by the end, this guidebook reads like it has gone through a Cuisinart, leaving a choppy, chaotic mess.
Arrivederci, Roma. The wise reader will stick with Fodor’s next time.