cover image The Lost Father

The Lost Father

Marina Warner. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (318pp) ISBN 978-0-671-67455-7

Shortlisted for the 1988 Booker Prize, this epic by the British author of In the Dark Wood and The Skating Party has all the ingredients for successful sales here. This multi-generational saga set in the south of Italy portrays a family altered irrevocably by its own myths. A fateful duel, a powerful patriarch and the binding affection among women are all presented in an ornate narrative that flows with rich descriptions. Anna, the narrator, tries to reconstruct the circumstances of her mother's life in New York and Italy, and the mysterious events surrounding the death of her grandfather, Davide Pittagora. Her daily routine in London, where she works in a small museum, contrasts with her imaginative re-creation of her family's violent history in a land torn by poverty and facism. Warner's style evokes the visual imagery of Bertolucci's films, while the heaviness of some of the emotion and drama seems more operatic. Readers should find this narrative both satisfying and nourishing, since its essential intelligence and quality of writing transcend the conventional family saga genre. (Apr.)