Synopses & Reviews
The 5:45 to Cannes. It links northern Italy with the French Riviera while running like a thread through lives that touch one another in unexpected and often secret ways: Chazz, the heir to a great fortune, suffers debilitating mood swings that threaten his once-perfect marriage. GianCarlo, a kindhearted young Italian, looks for a way out of the life of thievery he leads with his impoverished and orphaned brothers. Anais feels the insults of old age too acutely when her beloved son marries a woman who seems to despise her. Sophie, a talented young photographer reeling from the sudden death of her family, finds herself vulnerable to the pangs of a lovesick heart. And then there is the accidentif in truth it is an accidentthat joins each of these lives to the others in ways both profound and mundane. At the center we find beautiful, bereaved Claudette, wife of the doomed Chazz, taking the eponymous train to Cannes where she, like all the others, remembers her past and draws from it irresolvable feelings of strength and fragility, meaning and emptiness, permanence and loss.
In these stories, Tess Uriza Holthe peers deeply into the inner lives of these women and men, while evoking with sensual grace the richness of the land and culture they share: the time-stopping quality of an exquisite and leisurely meal taken at a tiny ristorante in an unmapped village; the salty breeze that wafts through the open bedroom window of an elegant chateau by the sea; the pulse of life at the festival in Rapallo, in the bullrings of Pamplona, and on the streets of Cannes when the movie people have gone. Sad and lovely, often at the same time, The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes takes us to places where we are happy to linger, in the world and in the human heart.
"Great title and rich Mediterranean backdrop aside, this collection of linked stories doesn't quite fulfill the promise of its deft architecture and impressive range. A reader can't help wishing that more of the characters in these stories had the appeal of the Bruiser, an introspective Scottish strong-arm hired to find an AWOL debtor and a kidnapped boy while on vacation in Italy. Or the title characters in the Garca Mrquez esque 'The Three Widows of Signor Alberto Moretti,' whose daily hen parties in front of the Hotel Rapallo in Rapallo, Italy, reveal a shared disdain and love for one another that's so convoluted even the three widows can't sort it out. Other stories resonate, especially 'The Ferry Driver of Portofino,' in which an ex-con adopts an abused young boy, and 'Homecoming,' which sees the widow of a man killed early in the collection traveling to France aboard the same train her husband rode on the day he died: the 5:45. At times, Holthe's eagerness to link her stories leaves some encounters feeling forced. Though this collection doesn't eclipse Holthe's debut, When the Elephants Dance (2002), it provides a trove of pleasures and will have fans looking forward to the next." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Tess Uriza Holthe is the author ofWhen the Elephants Dance. She lives in northern California.