The New York Times
Rancid Pansiesby James Hamilton-Paterson
When we last saw our hero he had taken to his bed in England, his beloved home in Tuscany having inexplicably capsized into a ravine. As Rancid Pansies opens, Samper is recuperating in Sussex at the home of the famous conductor Max Christ when he learns/b>/i>
Book three in the “Gerald Samper” series (Cooking with Fernet Branca, Amazing Disgrace)
When we last saw our hero he had taken to his bed in England, his beloved home in Tuscany having inexplicably capsized into a ravine. As Rancid Pansies opens, Samper is recuperating in Sussex at the home of the famous conductor Max Christ when he learns that film rights to his book on Millie Cleatthe one-armed yachtswoman whose inadvertent hari-kari, televised on Christmas day, gave his book an enormous boosthave been sold.
This windfall is sufficient to finance a return to Italy and provide the time to indulge a long suppressed aspiration: writing the libretto for an opera (if only he can find a suitable subject). Before departing, the ever-gracious Gerald insists on preparing a farewell dinner for Max, his family and friends. The meal of liver smoothies and field mouse vol-au-vent is a memory-makerand the assembled company's gag reflex is one of heroic proportions.
Back in Italy, Gerald discovers that an offhand remark he had made while surveying the wreckage of his house, claiming he and his friends were saved by an apparition of the late Princess of Wales, has found its way into the Italian newspapers. Now, religious pilgrims and curious tourists have erected an ad hoc shrine on what is left of his property. Annoying to be sure, but there is the kernel of a grand idea here. Opera requires romance and tragedy, right? And who more than the People's Princess had such theatrics in super-sized quantities? And, if Princess Diana were to become Saint Diana, think of the promotional possibilities, the merchandising! So fasten your seat belts: it's going to be a hilarious journey with some of the most appealing comic characters and sumptuous writing in recent literature.
The New York Times
The title of this outlandish, hilarious, and brilliant novel is an anagram for the name of a famous British royal personage. The third in the Gerald Samper series (after Cooking with Fernet Branca and Amazing Disgrace), it reads just fine as a stand-alone. Gerry is bored by the sports biographies he writes, but after his house in Tuscany collapses during an earthquake, his career takes a whole new turn. A helicopter pilot suggests that the "Blessed Madonna" kept everyone out of harm's way, and the story keeps spinning and spinning until it becomes the British "Madonna," Princess Diana, who appeared at Gerry's dinner party on that fateful evening and told everyone to leave immediately. The site becomes a shrine to the fashionista, and when a blind child regains her sight there, Gerry realizes that these events are high opera and sets about writing a libretto. The opera makes its debut to great success despite some funny unscripted events. Winner of the Whitbread Best First Novel Award, Hamilton-Paterson is a highly gifted wordsmith who strikes a rich vein of comic talent with this entertaining read. Highly recommended for readers who appreciate British comedy and the workings of an extremely imaginative mind.
Meet the Author
James Hamilton-Paterson is the author of several novels, including Gerontius, winner of the Whitbread Best First Novel Award. His non- fiction books include Seven-Tenths: The Sea and Its Thresholds. He is also the author of two books of poetry and is a regular contributor to Granta.
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