Sunday, July 10, 2011

Europa Editions - They've done it again

I read on one of the many blogs I monitor that there's actually a fan club for  Europa Editions gorgeous cover art and I must find out where on earth I found that information and join up. This is a book I heard good things about and decided to take a look at when I read that it's set in the hills above Viareggio in the over-sold region of Tuscany. It's a satire that pokes great fun at the Brits - not the Americans for a change - and a great change of pace for me as I read through Neruddin Farah's trilogy about Somalia.

The unfortunate Brit in this instance is Gerald Samper, a ghostwriter, though he hates that term, for some really awful, uninteresting people. Still, it pays the bills and look where it got him. He bought his coveted privacy from an Italian realtor who assured him that no one, but no one would find him at the top of the winding, grass road that led to this glorious villa overlooking the sea.
Oh, how wrong that was! Within twenty four hours of Samper's arrival he is accosted by Marta, a tenant in the supposedly unattended cottage on the property below him. Armed with a welcoming bottle of Fernet Branca, a drink I'll admit I've never heard of but that is, it seems, more potent that my favorite, grappa, she interrupts his painting and solitude with intrusive patter and an invitation to dinner.

What makes this book so funny and clever is that every other chapter is told by Marta. She revisits the happenings in the previous chapter told from Gerald's point of view and it's like playing that old kids' game telephone, reminiscent of the old Robbie Burns sentiment, O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us

Marta, you see, is a renowned music writer and is working on a score for an Italian film producer. She's as annoyed as Gerald is at the unwanted interruption of her solitude and finds Gerald's unbridled penchant for breaking into off key, very loud singing while he works on his villa, an insurmountable obstacle to her work. But clever Marta comes up with a means of using Gerald's quirk to her advantage and the more they try to avoid each other the more chance and bottle of Fernet Branca throw them together. Even halfway through this novel you just know where these two misfits are going to end up but it doesn't spoil the read at all. Laugh out loud fun!

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