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BOOK REVIEW: Siracusa

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BOOK REVIEW - Siracusa

By Diane McCurdy

Delia Ephron, sister of Nora and the screenwriter of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and You’ve Got Mail, has delivered a not so nice psychological thriller called Siracusa. It was drawn to my attention by a random recommendation in People magazine. The reason for the not so nice description is because all four major characters are unlikeable. They are annoying and sometimes downright despicable. When one is not able to identify with any characters as they prance through the printed page it can make for a dull read but I found these twisted pairs intriguing.

Two couples traditionally spend their vacations together, although one wonders why as they don’t even seem to like each other much. At first the reader needs to take a mental note of whom is partnered with whom. Once that is done it is an easy, breezy read. Michael and Lizzie live in New York City. Michael is the more successful of the two. Lizzie is struggling artistically. She senses that her marriage is on precarious ground and that Michael has a lover, and indeed he does. Taylor and Finn are from Portland, Maine. He is a small businessman, a restaurateur. Taylor is a stunning beauty who comes from wealth and privilege. She is neurotic and judgmental. Their daughter, Snow, who is so named because she was born in a blizzard, is both pathologically shy and passively perverse. It is clear that Taylor has passed on her neuroses to her spawn. The connection these four have is that Finn and Lizzie had, at one time, a brief affair and probably harbor residual lust for one another.

The story begins in Rome and ends in Sicily. The author creates environmental intimacy by mentioning charming landmarks. San Crispino is the best place for ice cream. The Caravaggio at Santa Lucia alla Badia evokes awe. Finn remarks that the Piazza Duomo is “...most beautiful place that I’ve ever been stoned.” Siracusa is a small town on the southeastern coast of Sicily. It is described as being in a perpetual state of disintegration, which exactly reflects what is happening to the relationships of the two couples. Sometimes the author’s writing is deliberately disjointed for effect. The action unfolds “Roshomon” style in that each chapter represents a different character’s interpretation of the same events. From the beginning, the reader can sense that some catastrophic event will occur. The book is sophisticated and cynical with a little spark of the sinister. It presents insights besieging modern relationships. It is a travelogue, a crime mystery and it makes us privy to the culture and temperament of the Italian people. Buona storia!