In a year when Good Friday and April Fool's Day coincide, forces are set loose that profoundly transform the inhabitants of a small Italian village. Lindsay's ambitious jumble of a novel features an eclectic dramatis personae, all of whom live in the village of Bacheretto. Gianni Terremoto is a porcine baker trying to cope with a moody daughter and a frustrated lover; Luigi Bacheretti is a reclusive would-be inventor who raises chickens for obscure scientific purposes; Emile Pestoso unnerves as a tortured priest struggling with issues of faith and repressed sexuality. The supporting cast is no less off-kilter, including one-legged ballerina Pia Zanetti and one-handed mason Stefano Costa. Lindsay leisurely charts the romantic and social entanglements of these odd characters, creating something akin to a surreal soap opera. The collective sexual tension and confusion builds to critical mass, resulting in the titular ""breadmaker's carnival,"" during which Gianni feeds cakes concocted from narcotics, aphrodisiacs and hallucinogens to his neighbors. The result is an orgy of saturnalian ferocity, a startling, extraordinarily disquieting set piece that allows Lindsay to effectively blend his defense of the inherent beauty and nobility of the human body with his concern about the evil latent in even the seemingly purest of souls. Stories revolving around artisan foodstuffs and bizarre rituals are a genre unto themselves by now, but Lindsay refrains from resorting to stereotype. Readers frustrated by the cozyness of novels like Joanne Harris's Chocolat but drawn to the subject matter will find this a more challenging variation. Despite some earthy, energetic and self-assured prose, the novel never truly gels, but it always aspires to powerful, provocative levels of insight. The publisher is crowing that the book has ""all the charm of Under the Tuscan Sun""; booksellers who pick up on the comparison may move copies quickly. (Dec. 12) FYI: Lindsay was joint winner of the Australian 1996 Jim Hamilton Award for this novel.