With energetic, often lyrical prose capable of poetic images of great intensity, coupled with an antic imagination unleashed in scenes of high adventure and bizarre and droll events, Helprin's ( Winter's Tale ) dramatic, sweeping narrative focuses on one man's experiences during a turbulent period of history. Septuagenarian Alessandro Giuliani, scion of a cultured Roman family, looks back on a life whose direction was irrevocably altered and thereafter shadowed by WW I. Idealistic Alessandro first sees action in the Tyrol (giving Helprin the opportunity to display his knowledge of mountain climbing), is part of a ``phantom'' unit sent to Sicily to capture deserters, becomes a deserter himself and later a prisoner sentenced to death--in short, undergoes experiences that encapsulate war's many horrors, ironies and tragedies. As counterpoint to brutal battle scenes, there is dark comedy in the character of the demented dwarf Orfeo Quatta, who pursues his awesome responsibilities at the Ministry of War with capricious maniawhy passive voice? doesn't dwarf himself pursue these responsibilities? . Helprin uses Giorgioni's painting La Tempesta to convey the novel's message: that women, with the promise of love and new life, are civilization's salvation in the aftermath of war. The author himself again demonstrates his ability to create vivid settings: ``as vivid as graphic representations''? magnificent landscapes teeming with activity and colored by extremes of weather, illuminated with the clarity of a classical painting . While the plot early on sometimes seems padded and digressive, the reader will soon find Alessandro's story a gripping, poignant and universally relevant moral fable. 125,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; paperback rights to Avon; author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/06/1991 Release date: 05/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.