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Lambrusco: A Novelby Ellen Cooney
Synopses & Reviews
On the train the whole world was the train.
No noise from the corridor. The other passengers had settled in. The door of my compartment was closed. The conductor had already been through. I was only traveling locally, going home, but nothing was normal; every journey was complicated.
No police, no soldiers. It was almost easy to forget that if it weren't for soldiers and police, the trains would not be running.
My papers were in order. Lucia Fantini of Mengo. Age fifty-five. Born a Sicilian. The lady with the voice at Aldo's. Widow of Aldo, mother of Beppi.
No problems: just a couple of brief confrontations. The usual. I knew how to raise my guard graciously, so the barriers didn't show. To make it seem I'd said yes, when saying no.
Excuse me, Signora Fantini, it's a great piece of luck we've run into you. As hurried as you are, could you pause two minutes to sing something complimentary? Tomorrow's our wedding anniversary, ten years. My husband was with the army in Africa. He doesn't like to talk about it, in fact he doesn't talk at all. It's the same as if they cut out his tongue. But look, his ears are wide open. Just one short song, something lively?
Signora, pardon me, one night I heard you sing at your husband's place which became your son's, I'm sorry the Fascists took it, the bastards. In the company of my in-laws who were paying, as I'd never afford it myself, I thought only of an expensive dinner. No one warned me that Aldo's had singing from the operas of our country. Sitting there unaware, I was destroyed for any voice except your own, and don't bother thanking me for a compliment. It's a fact. May the soul of your husband rest in peace, althoughtruthfully, one doubts that it can, if he knows what's going on. But I trust that one day soon, your splendid restaurant will come back to your family.
The anxiety of departure was over. No mechanical trouble, no schedule changes, no last-minute boardings, no unexplained delay.
My two shopping bags were from a fashionable dress shop in Bologna, but they were heavy; they contained two sacks of flour. There was still black market flour to be bought. Buried inside, one to each sack, were German guns--Lugers, which my son called useful, no-fuss bang-bangs, courtesy of our invaders. Our bank accounts were frozen. I had paid the gun-and-flour merchant with a pair of Aldo's gold cuff links. We were running out of jewelry. I no longer wore my wedding ring, but refused to give it up.
Lucia, an opera singer in Italy in 1943, searches for her son Beppino when he disappears after leading an underground resistance against the Nazi invasion.
The year is 1943. The Nazis have invaded Italy; American troops have landed. At Aldo's restaurant on the Adriatic coast, Lucia Fantini entertained customers for years with her marvelous opera singing. But normaloperations are over. The restaurant has been seized by nazifascisti, and a Resistance squad of waiters and local tradesmen has been formed, led by Lucia's son, Beppino. When Beppino disappears, Luciamust journey across war-devastated Italy to find him. Aided by a richly drawn cast of characters, the story of her adventures is told with the vigor, drama, and lyrical grace of an Italian opera, in a brilliantly arrangednarrative that places tragic events side-by-side with high comedy, domestic intrigues, and gripping details. In this captivating story of a mother and son, Cooney enters a world of peril and chance, and brings to life theextraordinary Resistance movement of the Italian people.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Ellen Cooney is the author of six previous novels. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Literary Review, and Glimmer Train, among other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she taught creative writing at Boston College, MIT, Harvard, and the University of Maine. She was a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, and now lives in midcoast Maine.
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