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Lambruscoby Ellen Cooney
Synopses & Reviews
The extraordinary Resistance movement of the Italian people in the Second World War is brought to life in a captivating, deeply moving story of a mothers search for her son, by the author of the widely acclaimed A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies.
The year is 1943. Nazis have invaded Italy; American troops have landed. At Aldos restaurant on the Adriatic coast, Lucia Fantini, wife of the late Aldo, entertained customers for years with her marvelous opera singing, but normal operations have ceased; the restaurant has been seized by nazifascisti, and a resistance squad of waiters and tradesmen has been formed, led by Lucias son Beppino. When he disappears after acting on his own to destroy a German truck, Lucia asks, “What kind of a partisan are you, blowing something up without telling your mother?” and sets off to look for him.
Lucia is aided in her efforts by a richly drawn cast of characters, including Annmarie Malone, the American Army Intelligence officer whos a professional golfer back home; Tito Roncuzzi, the butcher who taught neighborhood dogs to pee on Fascists boots, Etto Renzetti, the factory owner who scoffs at Dante, and Ugo Fantini, Aldos physician cousin, who has reasons of his own for wanting to be near Lucia.
Lucias journey across a war-devastated Italy is operatic in its scope and intensity. Ellen Cooney has drawn on her heritage as a third-generation Italian-American to invoke not only a country in crisis but also its literature, its moods, and, most of all, its music. This is a tale told with lyrical grace and an effervescent comic spirit to match the wine that nourishes them all--Lambrusco.
"In this heartfelt if uneven portrayal of a widow's wartime struggles, Cooney captures the chaos visited upon the Italian countryside during WWII. Lucia Fantini, renowned for her operatic performances in the family restaurant, finds herself on a mission to find her son, Beppi, who went into hiding after blowing up a German tank. In her travels, she crosses paths with an American woman, a former golf champion who is part of army intelligence; distant neighbors whose homes have been bombed; and people who have been involved with the restaurant. Cooney takes great pains to capture the individual idiosyncrasies of the characters, but the many competing personalities dilute Lucia's story. Flashbacks appear frequently, and though some are illuminating, the combination of recollections, the present story and Lucia's occasional delusions (one minute, bombs are falling, the next, Lucia is having a conversation with Verdi and Puccini over who is the greater musician) lacks balance. Still, Cooney (A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies) accomplishes her task of portraying, on a very personal level, the moxie and individuality of the Italian villagers as they face the challenges of war." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The author of "A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies" has written a captivating, wonderfully funny novel. Set in 1943 Italy, the country and its people are wracked by war, but there are some things for which even war is no match--friendship, food, love, and the Lambrusco that feeds the soul.
About the Author
Ellen Cooney is the author of seven novels. Her short stories have widely appeared in magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The Literary Review, and Glimmer Train. She has received fiction fellowships from the NEA and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and taught creative writing for twenty-five years in Boston and Cambridge, most recently as writer in residence at MIT. She now lives in midcoast Maine.
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