In each of the five stories in this stunning debut, Morazzoni meticulously charts the process of dying. Set in Europe during various historical periods, the beautifully cadenced tales depict moments of insight or deep emotion, illuminated with unusual clarity. In ``The White Door,'' she imagines the last, bitter days of Mozart, unable to finish his Requiem or communicate with his gay and talkative wife, even to play the card games he adores. Alone, and in the final dark, he laughs aloud. Less poignant, but equally brilliant in detail, is the title story, in which an art dealer, obsessed with beauty, takes an arduous journey from Scheveningen to Copenhagen to sell to a Danish nobleman the Vermeer painting he cherishes almost as much as money. After both men die, the nobleman's daughter offers to return the painting to the merchant's son, who has inherited only his father's interest in matters financial. Like ``The Death of Ivan Ilich,'' the last of these stories, ``Order in the House,'' records the terrible struggle of a man, paralyzed by a stroke, to reenter life. Slowly his eyes begin to flicker with understanding, as spring brightens his window. But his wife, sho sits at his bedside awaiting the collapse of the useless body, never looks into his eyes. Compelling evocation of place and character and a rich prose style mark Morazzoni as a writer of exceptional talent. (September)
In the title story of this collection of five long stories, a 17th-century Dutch merchant takes a long ocean voyage to make the first sale of Vermeer's painting ``The Girl in a Turban.'' The merchant is shrewd and ambitious; still, he finds it difficult to part with this portrait of the girl with the beseeching gaze. In ``The White Door,'' an anxious, hypochondriacal musician (whom we gradually recognize to be Mozart) struggles to compose. Morazzoni has been compared to Flaubert, and she is indeed Flaubertian in her subtlety and intensity of characterization and in her deft evocation of time and place. Creagh's translation is well suited to her spare and masterful prose. Highly recommended. Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.