cover image The Other Language

The Other Language

Francesca Marciano. Pantheon, $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-90836-0

Generations of Italians fled the poverty of their native country, never to return. But in this century, Italians leaving Italy are highly mobile citizens of the globalized world who, nonetheless, remain recognizably Italian. It’s these Italians who populate Marciano’s (Rules of the Wind) stories. In “Big Island, Small Island,” Stella flies to a tiny African island to see an old boyfriend, who turns out to have gone native; in “An Indian Soiree,” a vacationing couple realizes how easily a marriage can dissolve; in “The Italian System,” a Italian woman who loves New York City because it has “no witnesses, no memories” ends up writing a book about Italian ways; and in the title story, a teenager’s crush on an English boy changes her life. Even when the heroine stays in Italy, as in the excellent “The Presence of Men,” she’s still out of place, as a northerner in Italy’s deep south. The one story with no ties to Italy, “The Club,” is the weakest in an otherwise strong collection. Marciano’s women (and sometimes her men) don’t necessarily want what they have—they make choices and make do; they travel, get divorced, adapt. The effect is both luxurious and down to earth, a pleasurable sojourn with characters Marciano depicts as simultaneously likable and irritating, bold and retiring, types and individuals—not unlike those reading about them. (Apr.)