In this passionate tale of three generations of one 20th-century Italian family, Marciano brings Southern Italy as boldy to life as she did Kenya in her first novel, the well-received Rules of the Wild (1998). As Alina Strada prepares to sell the family farmhouse in Puglia, she reflects on the tumultuous past, beginning with the purchase and restoration of the crumbling farmhouse before WWII by her grandfather, Lorenzo, a moderately successful portrait painter. When Lorenzo's Tunisian wife and model, Renée, runs off with a German woman, he takes revenge by painting a huge nude of Renée on the inner patio wall. After a brief nervous breakdown, he marries his nurse, Jeanne, who immediately has the white stone house, so typical of the region, painted red—hence the name Casa Rossa—and the nude mural covered up. Lorenzo's daughter, Alba, has two daughters, Alina and Isabella, by her dashing husband, Oliviero, who leaves a murky legacy after his early demise. As the girls mature and governments come and go in postwar Italy, Alina has a brush with drugs, while her less fortunate sister, Isabella, joins a group of terrorists. Alina works for a time with a Fellini-esque filmmaker before moving to New York, where she gets a job at an art gallery and falls in love with an American. Alina's perspective on 1980s New York nicely complements her American boyfriend's subsequent view of Italy. The intricate complications may challenge belief, but the author imperturbably weaves them together into a glamorous, romantic whole. (Sept. 3)
Forecast:A 10-city tour by the attractive and articulate Italian author, buoyed by the wave of her first novel's success, should guarantee sales at least equal to those for Rules of the Wild.
Release date: 08/01/2002