The Train to Orvi­eto

With care­ful set­tings and raw seams, The Train to Orvi­eto is a fas­ci­nat­ing jour­ney of sins come home to roost.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - KAREN RIGBY

Re­becca Novelli Black Heron Press Soft­cover $17.95 (400pp) 978-1-936364-23-7

The Train to Orvi­eto de­tails a Mid­west­ern in­genue’s love for art—as nar­rated by her daugh­ter—and the folly that sparks a life­time of re­gret. Re­becca Novelli’s strik­ing novel is an in­ti­mate, el­e­gant por­trait of an in­di­vid­u­al­ist who em­braces an ex­pa­tri­ate life, and of women’s roles in the twen­ti­eth cen­tury and the pas­sions that guided them.

Dis­tinct sec­tions fo­cus on Willa and her main loves. An im­pul­sive dreamer from 1930s Ohio who moves to Italy to be­come an artist, Willa com­mits so­cial er­rors that brand her as an out­sider in the cir­cum­spect town of Orvi­eto. Novelli re­freshes the clas­sic sub­ject of a woman who seeks self­dis­cov­ery abroad, through a dra­matic plot that pulls her flawed pro­tag­o­nist from an emo­tion­ally with­er­ing mar­riage to an af­fair that spans across years. Ten­sion builds to­ward 1968, when Willa’s daugh­ter, Fina, dis­cov­ers the se­cret that soured her par­ents’ re­la­tion­ship.

Novelli—also a pain­ter—deftly cre­ates scenes in the March­eschi villa that draw a stark con­trast be­tween Willa’s failed am­bi­tions and the rus­tic truth of liv­ing in her hus­band’s fam­ily home. Willa grad­u­ally trans­forms from a naive, reck­less young Amer­i­can to a ca­pa­ble landowner who con­tin­u­ally de­fies ex­pec­ta­tions. The jour­ney be­tween takes de­tours and pre­dictable turns yet por­trays Willa’s dis­il­lu­sion­ment with­out judg­ment for her de­ci­sions. For all the book’s em­pha­sis on whether women can shape their own fate in a time that fa­vors tra­di­tion, its the subtler themes, like that of keep­ing faith amid dark­ness, that most stand out.

Few char­ac­ters ex­em­plify this qual­ity more than Michel Lo­sine, a Jewish gem dealer and wid­ower whose fam­ily suf­fered the bru­tal­ity of war. Ever the gen­tle­man who has a cool de­meanor and is a ca­pa­ble or­ches­tra­tor of events, his suc­cess be­lies re­strained vul­ner­a­bil­ity. The strug­gle be­tween his loy­al­ties to the liv­ing and the dead add depth to his ac­tions. Fina dis­plays a sim­i­lar am­bi­gu­ity, to a lesser de­gree. Her arc, if sparer and less as­sured than her mother’s, of­fers an al­ter­na­tive to res­ig­na­tion. Her ef­forts to pave-over past con­flicts re­veal a dif­fer­ent strength. With care­ful set­tings and raw seams, The

Train to Orvi­eto is a fas­ci­nat­ing jour­ney of sins come home to roost.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.