The Young Italians by Amanda Prantera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not quite an Aga-saga, but close... Irene is a newly orphaned young woman heading to Italy to live with her only living relative, an aunt who is less than thrilled to play guardian. Aunt Florence's life is based on the intellectual/artistic discussion at her Wednesday salotta, at which Irene is a complete disappointment, so Florence finds a nice young man to amuse Irene. This man, Tommasso, and Irene hit it off, somewhat, and end up married - Irene rather passively leaves her aunt for her husband's large family.
Throughout the book, Irene's reactions are passive and even her "affair" is conducted in that manner (can you call it an affair if there's only one real moment of physical contact, and the rest is glances and occasional conversations and covert stalking?). All this is set against the backdrop of Mussolini's rise, and the family consensus is that he's a bit of a buffoon but not much worse; of course, they change their mind as Italy invades Ethiopia and cozies up to Hitler.
I never felt a real connection to Irene, probably because she is portrayed as something of an observer in her life - we never get close to any of the characters. I wished there'd been slightly more about the political changes, as this is a period about which we rarely hear.
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