``Politics is about social classes, not personalities,'' says the communist brother of Rosaria Lombardi, the female protagonist of this perfervid historical romance set in early 20th-century Italy. But she (and the author) would seem to argue otherwise. Rosaria, a peasant woman of Cederna, and Achille Leone, a member of the town's ruling family, have been drawn to each other since childhood. But through the approximately 11 years represented here--a time spanning Italy's involvements in North Africa, its role in WW I and the rise of Mussolini--the two encounter numerous obstacles to their relationship. Rosaria promises herself to Achille, but after he is erroneously pronounced dead in battle in Libya, she becomes the mistress of Achille's father; Achille's venomous sister Giorgina spreads lies about the father of Rosaria's son; when Achille, now returned to Italy, hears a false report about Rosaria's role in a socialist uprising, he marries her best friend Cristina. Collin ( Imbroglio ) might have explored some interesting issues here, but his heavy-handed theme--that Rosaria and Achille are somehow fated to be together against all odds--is neither believable nor all that desirable. Achille's longing for Rosaria seems exclusively physical, and their seemingly endless misunderstandings are manipulated with operatic excess and in prose that is often oddly detached: when Achille finally proposes to Rosaria, in the midst of the Fascist takeover of Italy, her first thought is, ``I can't be married today. I don't have a thing to wear.'' While Harvard- and Oxford-educated scholar Collin has used accurate historical detail, his lack of insight into human relations or emotional truths makes this a disappointing effort. (Apr.)
Collin (Imbroglio, 1981), who teaches political science, has written a matter-of-fact, dry-as-dust historical novel of Italy during the turbulent years 1911-22. He focuses on the aristocratic Leone family and their minions in a town 40 miles from Rome. The old conte is a well-known, respected general who deplores bloodshed. His daughter is a selfish, patronizing woman who will betray everyone and become a Fascist. The older son is in love with a peasant woman whose brother is a leader of the local Socialist/Communist group. The younger son is gay. What should have been a fast-paced action story instead becomes a plodding narrative that reads like a history text with a bit of dialog added. Collin does know his history and liberally sprinkles the text with little-known or long-forgotten facts, viz., Mussolini was originally a Socialist. Recommended for patrons who read any kind of historical fiction.-Paula M. Zieselman, Fulbright & Jaworski, New York
In Collin's sweeping epic of star-crossed lovers, Achille Leone is a young nobleman in line to inherit the ancestral estate outside Rome. His love for the beautiful peasant girl Rosaria is interrupted by his destiny-- to become a soldier of great consequence--and by barricades of class warfare. On one side are Leone family members who staunchly defend their aristocratic privileges; on the other, Rosaria's Marxist brother Sandro and other workers with a taste for revolution. Collin's intricate story charts a very rocky road for Achille and Rosaria to travel, beginning in 1911 with Achille's first military expedition to North Africa and careening through years of political upheaval that shook the Italian landscape. Collin's saga should appeal to history buffs with a penchant for romance.