RITTENHOUSE SQUARE by Merla Zellerbach


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Zellerbach's hard-cover debut--a feisty female Horatio Alger story--details the ruthless rise of South Philly's Vittoria Di Angelo to the pinnacle of real-estate success. Little Vittoria is born brilliant and power-hungry, and a nasty encounter with some Main Line Philadelphia children at the age of 13 does nothing to dilute her taste for blood. Chafing under the rude taunts of some rich, racist Rittenhouse Square children she meets at a party, Vittoria vows she'll grow up to become richer and more powerful than them all--despite the disadvantages of growing up Italo-American, female, uneducated, and poor. When her father is thrown into jail for bribery, Torie leaps at the chance to help her brother run the family real-estate business. She proves such a natural that when brother Frankie is drafted and sent to Viet Nam, Torie takes over completely and never lets go. Soon she's tossing tenants out of their apartments right and left (in imitation of her oft-mentioned hero, Donald Trump), while splattering the Philadelphia skyline with the soaring glass-and-steel skyscrapers she adores, in defiance of the city's architectural tradition, and simultaneously carrying on an affair with a sensual young Main Line architect. Still, even this much power isn't enough: Philadelphia society continues to thumb its nose at Torie's astoundingly bad taste. In her effort to force her way into the salons of the rich and famous, Torie finds herself caught in a spiral of nonstop deal-making until her Main Line marriage crumbles and she must surrender custody of her small child. Only then does the voluptuous young mogul take the time to relax, fall in love with another wealthy suitor, and decide that perhaps she doesn't have to tear down all of Old Philadelphia after all. Restoration, she admits tentatively in the first flush of love, may have its place as well. An odd mixture of business and romance, artlessly rendered but somehow captivating nonetheless.

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1989
Publisher: Random House