A skillfully constructed 1995 novel by the much-honored author of The Dust Roads of Monferrato (not reviewed) and the memoir First Word (2000).
Here, an extended family’s complex history of secrets and lies becomes a microcosm for Fascist Italy’s persecution of Jews during WWII. Loy’s narrator retrospectively pieces together the truth about her father’s embattled friend and colleague, biology teacher Arturo Cohen, and the latter’s relationships with her aunt Margot (whom he married) and also Lorenza’s beautiful, faithless mother Isabelle. The narrative subtly juxtaposes images and scenes (set mostly in Italy and a retreat in Switzerland) not understood by the young Lorenza with her unillusioned adult comprehension, not only of her culture’s vengeful prejudices but of her own family circle’s panicked surrender to self-deception, intrigue, and violence. A brilliant and genuinely disturbing book.