cover image The Bishop’s Bedroom

The Bishop’s Bedroom

Piero Chiara, trans. from the Italian by Jill Foulston. New Vessel, $15.95 trade paper (151p) ISBN 978-1-939931-74-0

Chiara’s engrossing novel of loafing lotharios in post-WWII Italy hums with suspense. An wealthy 30-something unnamed narrator gads about Lake Maggiore in the summer of 1946 on his unusual sailboat. He meets Temistocle Mario Orimbelli, recently returned to Italy following his time in the army in Africa, who insistently invites him to dine. Orimbelli takes him to his eerie villa and introduces his chilly wife, Cleofe, and sultry Matilde, the widow of Cleofe’s presumed dead brother. The two men take to drifting along the lake and picking up women to seduce. Orimbelli annoys the narrator by always seducing the one the narrator prefers and acting as if he cannot help it. When Matilde agrees to accompany them on a short journey, the narrator sees his turn to consummate his attraction, but Orimbelli claims he shares a strong, secret love with Matilde. As the narrator begins to cool on his friend, a shocking death sets in motion a tense cascade of suspicion and new arrangements. Chiara’s atmospheric writing and aching descriptions of desire amplify the effects of the characters’ dubious choices. Readers will be swept away by this lush, gothic-tinged mystery and its unscrupulous characters. [em](Nov.) [/em]