Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklySet in a tiny Italian village, this novel by the British-born author of Joanna is about as flavorful and authentic as a dish of overcooked spaghetti. Before WW II works its depredations, the village is a world unto itself, its borders breached rarely--but for the appearance of Maestro Rossi's traveling fun fair. There the noble peasant's son, Alessandro Mezzanotte, conceives an immortal passion for mysterious and beautiful Valentina, the daughter of the ringmaster. ``Sometimes he would travel all day and all night just to spend an hour with her. His brothers said he was mad. . . . How could they know that the inside of Valentina's mouth was the elixir of life.'' Throw in some subplots involving tragic village women, tragicomic village men; stir in a helping of the meaninglessness of war and warfare; imply some symbols about blindness and insight; and presto --what results is an imitation of the great postwar Italian novelists. At times St. Aubin de Teran's prose reaches toward bathos; never does it echo with the ring of simple truth. (Sept.)
Library Journal - Library JournalWhen the army assigns Stefano Altini the job of companion to Allesandro Mezzanotte, a blind, severely mutilated World War II veteran, the emotionally scarred young soldier becomes the older man's first confidante in 40 years. Stefano learns how Allesandro's darkness has been illuminated by his memories of Valentina, the Gypsy girl he loved before the war. As the narrative moves back and forth between present day Umbria and its simpler, yet harsher prewar existence, Stefano and the reader learn the secrets of survival with dignity, love, and friendship. This deceptively simple narrative by St. Aubin de Teran ( Joanna , LJ 3/15/91) is lush with description, each character lovingly limned. Whether it's Stefano, whose childhood terrors are intensified by his abusive father, or Allesandro's peasant grandmother, carrying on lengthy conversations with an imaginary version of the camel she once saw at a fair, the author's hand is deft and accurate in this addition to her award-winning canon.-- Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, Kan.
Kirkus ReviewsIn a seventh novelas exquisitely styled as her previous efforts (Joanna, 1991, etc.)Umbria-based St. Aubin de Ter�n uses her knowledge of rural Italy to evoke poignant images of tradition and a world in transition, where the love of a mangled war veteran for a fickle, long-lost fianc�e burns brightly if secretly through the years. For the inhabitants of the ancient village where Alessandro Mezzanotte was born, the boundaries of the familiar ended at the edge of town, and anyone like himwho looked beyond for love and wifewas courting disaster. His infatuation with Valentina, gypsy daughter of a traveling circus owner, prompted frequent train trips just to spend a few hours with her, until he was drafted into Mussolini's army. An accident left him one-armed, horribly scarred, and blind, but he never lost hope that Valentina might return, even after she ran from him upon first seeing his condition in the hospital. Back in his village Mezzanotte kept to himself for 40 years, roaming the streets endlessly but befriending no one. Having outlived his entire family, he relies on the draftees sent by the state to be his companions; when Stefano, a troubled soldier whose mother escaped his father's tyranny by sleeping herself to death, comes to take his turn, his arrival coincides with the reappearance of the circus for the first time since the war. Mezzanotte abruptly halts his self-imposed isolation, telling Stefano about his life, and in response his listener discovers his own reason to live, so that when the old man dies the young man can carry on. A vivid, at times stunning depiction of Umbrian village life past and presentand a first-rate portrayal of theheart's yearning and the vitality of love.
- St. Martin's Press
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