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Posted September 2, 2002
This review is from THE BOOK READER. Spring-Summer 2002 edition. DEAR FRIENDS AND DARLING ROMANS. By Mary Chamberlin, illustrated by Nicola Simbari. IDKPress, paper. This beautifully written, elegantly observed book has a history. Author Chamberlin, an American, moved to Rome in 1954 and she's lived there ever since. But three years into her stay, she wrote this book and it was published for an audience of 1950s America. It's reissued now-and it's just lovely. Unvarnished America meets varnished, crazy-quilt, wild Italy. "I was in a country where Carmen and La Tosca packed the theater, and Elsie Dinsmore and Pollyanna played to an empty house." She applies for a room to a woman in her late thirties who introduces her to Mamma-together, the two go over recently divorced Chamberlin with the dogmatic eyes of the Catholic centuries. A very human story of a case history of one Elizabeth who came to Italy on a Fullbright, and after a confusing relationship realized: "One Italian romance in a lifetime was enough." Trieste "has the atmosphere of being nowhere more than any place I know." A trip to Yugoslavia results in culture shock as a man viciously beats a horse and everyone accepts the scene as totally normal. "The cries of the horse sounded louder than they had from above. Was there no way to make them understand that the horse's misery was their own..." The men of Italy, romance, a Latin dentist, the entire panorama of Italy and a Mediterranean culture ten times older than America's. An enthralling, wonderfully observed work of art from fifty years ago, rich with color and emotion and packed with intriguing characters. Chamberlin is truly a master storyteller.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.