cover image Across the Bridge of Sighs: More Venetian Stories

Across the Bridge of Sighs: More Venetian Stories

Jane Turner Rylands, . . Pantheon, $22 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42341-3

This follow-up to Rylands's debut, Venetian Stories (2003), features a similar cast of fallen aristocrats, social climbers, workaday Venetians and their respective hangers-on. When Baroness Sofi Patristi finally divorces her serially philandering husband to marry the architect Vittorio Fallon in "Restoration," the refurbishments they undertake to the family's historic palazzo are interrupted by a tragedy that halts any future plans. In "Fortune," two exes reunite to visit their ne'er do-well-son Bingo. Since the split, Beauregard Benson has started a new life with his German boyfriend, Dieter, and ex-wife Carmenina has a tepid romance brewing with the aging Roman Count Barbaro. At a bourbon-fueled dinner party, raffish journalist Cad Peacock is there to chronicle the discomfiture of all, as is pliant young party girl Rosi Rosso. In "Integration," Contessa Panfili's son and daughter-in-law try to jar her into the modern age through a difficult journey to the garish supermarket on the mainland, mirroring the city's ongoing struggle against an imposed modernity. Rylands sometimes loses her characters in lofty prose (the contessa's loss of a son "clapped over her life like a jar over a bee"). Whether witty or shimmeringly wistful, however, each of the tales Rylands spins prove entertaining, and the interwoven stories borrow from each other's casts with ease. (Nov. 22)