The Italian House

Teresa Crane, Author
Teresa Crane, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-13992-6
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7451-6634-6
Hardcover - 284 pages - 978-0-7515-1296-0
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In early December 1922, oppressed, unhappy young British wife Carrie Stowe inherits the beloved Tuscan home of her grandmother. This windfall gains her, through the intricacies of Italian testamentary law, a short respite from her punctilious and vaguely sinister husband, Arthur, for she must claim her bequest in person. When she arrives in Italy, she finds Leo, her first cousin and childhood companion (who's been disinherited for the sins of his father), in the house. Delighted, she asks him to stay and help her. He does, and among the gewgaws and priceless objets d'art, they succumb to a forbidden passion. Carrie's grandmother's faithful nurse, the ancient Maria, inveighs against this doubly sinful love affair, warning that it's likely to call up demons of the past. For grandmama had a guilty secret-one that has already cost one life. In comparison with Crane's vividly characterized Freedom's Banner, this work suffers from Carrie's sentimentality and incredible naivete. Leo, hardened by his experience in WW I, intrigues, but his dark side remains too mysterious, as does the fascinating and poorly developed grandmother, who could have carried the book. For all its faults of character and tone, the plot-involving revelations of murder, bigamy and greed-is solid, and the descriptions of the Italian landscapes and seasons are positively lyrical. (Mar.)
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