by Joanna Scott
Adriana in Warland
A review by Anna Godbersen
The heroine of Liberation, Joanna Scott's gleaming, wonderfully packed new novel, exists somewhere between the island of Elba, in Italy, circa 1944, and Penn Station, sometime around now, her identity floating between a ten-year-old named Adriana Nardi and a seventy-year-old Mrs. Rundel, who happens to be having trouble breathing. This heroine is hovering in that memory-jammed space between life and death. As usual, Scott has her way with time, like a writer too convinced of the wealth in any given moment to just let it pass. And Adriana is a girl too full of imagination to be frightened, exactly, by the liberation of her island from the Germans, a fraught term for what can "no longer be called a proper war"; what has revealed itself to be "violence without purpose or restraint." While the grownups are worrying about the gunfire in the hills and the raping and pillaging that war apparently permits, Adriana is concerned with the fate of Amdu Diop, a Senegalese soldier in the French Colonial army, a young man who considered the professions of doctor and saint before enlisting as a volunteer. He is hungry and thirsty, after all, and his nose is bloody from having run into a door. He may or may not be able to perform miracles.
Liberation, with its insights into troop movements and the malfunctions of lungs, is an all-seeing book, its point of view ranging from the expansive to the narrow. Still, Scott manages to include only what is needed for the conjuring of a curious, exquisite love story.
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