An attorney makes his literary debut with a slim collection of musings on a year’s residence in Italy.
The format will be familiar to anyone having even a passing acquaintance with Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. An American family—in this case, ex-trial lawyer Michael, wife Sheila, and their baby daughter—moves to a European village and has an intriguing time learning about life from the quirky but warm inhabitants. Preciousness is a pitfall of this genre, but the author gives good promise of avoiding it in his opening pages, where he declares that “The plan was that Sheila would spend her days painting, while I would sit and reflect on the fact that I’d not worked for years, had an infant daughter, and was unable to produce or even reflect on anything that I or anyone else would consider useful.” Unfortunately, from here Rips swings his gaze outward and relates a series of anecdotes about the inhabitants of the town of Sutri: a blind bootmaker, a crusty bean farmer, a hermaphroditic shopkeeper. The locals seem to be little more than collections of traits; their motivations and relationships remain opaque. More promising is the author’s own story: an adulthood spent living in hotels, his relationships with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, he does little with these topics, telling just enough to intrigue the reader and then retreating to yet another sketch of local qualities and customs. Rips makes motions towards a larger unifying theme, mentioning philosophy or the Bible or his curiosity about the meaning of life, but he never addresses these subjects in a sustained way. Taken as a whole, his effort falls flat.
Colorful but slight.