Cassata

Rosemary Kingsland, Author Viking Books $18.95 (346p) ISBN 978-0-670-81393-3
This book has everything, from a ducal palazzo on the fabled Monte Paradiso near Pisa to art forgers, a South African dentist turned diamond smuggler, a half-mad pyromaniac and a barefoot Italian bastard who amasses lire with the speed and regularity of a printing machine. It could also without difficulty become a cookbook, since Kingsland interpolates mouth-watering recipes from Italian cucina classica. A vinous twist is added by the diamond smuggler, who introduces a visiting American to the great Italian wines and the mystery of the grape harvest. The numerous subplots defy recounting, but the chief actors are Osvaldo the bastard, who deviously manages to buy the palace when the duke and duchess leave for New York; Hanna, the duke's older daughter, beloved of Osvaldo, who courts and finally wins her; and Claudia, the younger daughter, a once-yearly nymphomaniac roused to sexual action by the annual visits of her ex-husband. The author lyrically describes the local landscape; she pokes subtle fun at the foibles of both the gentry and the peasants, and takes great delight in her complicated yarn. But there are too many extraneous Italian phrases and a lot of crude language, which sits uneasily on noble tongues. All in all, though, the book has enough surprises to keep the reader turning the pages. (May 7)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
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