A big, knowledgeable, splendid novel deals with life in Sicily, just before and during the American invasion. The plot is slight, and concerns Rinaldo Leone, a Sicilian who has made good in America. He returns to Sicily to marry the mother of his bastard son, Matteo, and plans to take them home with him. But Matteo, 19, wants to stay and become a doctor and he works in a hospital in Messina during the Allied bombardment. On these slender bones are strung some magnificent scenes which, while perfectly real, are also slightly surreal in their oddly juxtaposed images and conversations, and full of motion. Swirling mob scenes alternate with pastoral or domestic silences-Rinaldo and Matteo search for each other and for their relationships to life, and they figure in many remarkable scenes within this small Sicilian town; of a wild Easter celebration by an obscure mountain sect; of life within a hospital under fire; of a calmly clinical night in a brothel; of the evacuating German troops, straggling down the highways to the sea.... It is an eerie, highly visual, absorbing look at the chaos and collapse of Fascism in a remote outpost, where life goes on in the face of war.