cover image The Italian Lover

The Italian Lover

Robert Hellenga, . . Little, Brown, $23.99 (343pp) ISBN 978-0-316-11763-0

Hellenga reprises protagonist Margot Harrington from The Sixteen Pleasures (1995) in his latest, a romantic comedy about the book-to-film adaptation of Margot's memoir. In the fall of 1990, book restorer and longtime American ex-pat Margot is 53, living in her adopted Florence and awaiting the arrival of a film producer who wants to adapt her 1975 memoir for film. At the same time, Margot meets and falls in love with Alan “Woody” Woodhull, an Illinois-bred guitarist who gigs at the Bebop Club and also teaches literature at the American Academy. Meanwhile, producer Esther Klein desperately wants to make the film The Italian Lover , her first solo production since her husband/production partner left her. The movie crew includes Michael Gardiner, the “middling” director dying of cancer, and Miranda Clark, the young actress desperate to capture the true Margot. Subplots abound and conflicts brew (Woody rescues an abused dog; Miranda has problems with a nude scene), but the characters never come fully to life. Elegant in its colorful use of Italian phrases, cuisine and sites, Hellenga's complex novel offers a vivid, often sophisticated view of modern Florence, but less so of its residents and visitors. (Sept.)