Don Giovanna

Amanda Prantera, Author
Amanda Prantera, Author Bloomsbury UK $24.95 (241p) ISBN 978-0-7475-4927-7
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-7475-5336-6
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The novel is the most flexible of literary forms, but can it be twisted into the shape of an opera, composed entirely of arias, duets, recitatives and the like? This fine and satisfying entertainment proves nothing is impossible. What feels like a gimmick at first gradually results in a pleasing, persuasive piece of fiction. In Tuscany a group of well-to-do expatriates decides to put on an amateur production of Don Giovanni. This undertaking serves as a frame for Prantera's witty and penetrating exploration of character. Lord Henry Thirsk, a failed English novelist, provides the impetus (and the financial backing) for the project, which he embarks on as a way of evading his novel and not thinking about his failure as a mate to his charming young Italian wife. Joanna, an English painter, is married to Orso Volpi, a man as kind, loving and amiable as he is faithless. Their housekeeper, the voluble Amabile, is raising the child of her son, who was recently killed in an automobile accident; the child's mother is a drug addict. Prantera's (Letter to Lorenzo, etc.) narrative, with its droll sense of individual and national idiom (English, Italian and American), juggles these and other richly drawn characters as they engage in amatory adventures and misadventures. The novelist's particular coup here is to use the conventions of operatic drama as a way of letting characters' interior and exterior monologues reveal story and character (via voice mail, for example). The result is a book that is both intellectually winning and unpretentiously original. (Feb. 1)
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