What do you think of when you think of Italy?
Warm sunshine, olive oil, wine, and noisy dinners with friends laughing around a table perhaps? Or maybe the thought of Italy brings to mind the white marble of ancient rome, the colosseum and Palatine hill.
The idea of a dark gothic tale set in sunny Italy during the roaring twenties seemed contradictory but as I started reading The Etruscan by Linda Lappin I discovered this was a different Italy than the one I was expecting.
“In the murky puddle of rainwater collected at the entrance of the tomb, I spied my own reflection, a dark, hatted figure against a pewter sky.”
Linda introduces us to a very different Italy. In The Etruscan the road is muddy, the wind sharp and the night damp– everything you need for a creepy tale. Instead of the expected gregarious feasters, there is a taciturn man. Instead of the scent of garlic and Italian herbs, the kitchen odors are dust, mildew and damp. Instead of marble temples, there are stone tombs. This wet, cold Italy is unnerving. I felt off-balance and insecure (the perfect mood for a gothic!)
Early in the book, I didn’t like how distant the protagonist and her best friend seemed after being reunited after a long absence. It felt uncomfortably distant. I chalked it up to awkward writing but read on. By this time I was invested in the story even if the relationship was awkwardly depicted. Once the protagonist was alone again, and I began questioning her perceptions, I realized it wasn’t awkward writing at all in the previous chapter. It was purposefully vague. The protagonist was becoming distant, aloof, maybe even obsessed.
The Etruscan kept me deliciously off-balance for the entire ride. Just when I thought I figured something out, I discovered it was something else entirely… then I discovered it wasn’t even that. I can see why Linda Lappin won the Daphne Du Maurier Prize last year. She is wickedly good at making you feel like something just isn’t quite right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, until it bites your finger off!
What wander-readers will love:
- An unexpected wet, gothic Italy that comes to life as they read.
- Subtle gems of Etruscan custom and culture scattered throughout.
- A literary tour of an Etruscan tomb.
My favorite things:
- Mrs. Parsons! (Seriously, I need a Mrs. Parsons in my life.)
- An surprising, unusual romantic interest, nothing is cliche about the count.
- The utter lack of explanation past the point you think you should have figured things out. Seriously, Linda Lappin outsmarted me and I LOVED it.
- You can get an Amazon free download of The Etruscan this week!