An exhilarating novel of romance, art, and food in , featuring the beloved Margot Harrington, who graced Robert Hellenga's The Sixteen Pleasures. Margot Harrington's memoir about her discovery in Florence of a priceless masterwork of Renaissance erotica - and the misguided love affair it inspired - is now, 25 years later, being made into a movie. Margot, with the help of her lover, Woody, writes a script that she thinks will validate her life. Of course their script is not used, but never mind - happy endings are the best endings for movies, as Margot eventually comes to see. At the former convent in where "The Sixteen Pleasures" - now called "The Italian Lover," - is being filmed, Margot enters into a drama she never imagined, where her ideas of home, love, art, and aging collide with the imperatives of commerce and the unknowability of other cultures and other people.
Hellenga reprises protagonist Margot Harrington from The Sixteen Pleasures (1995) in his latest, a romantic comedy about the book-to-film adaptation of Margot's memoir. In the fall of 1990, book restorer and longtime American ex-pat Margot is 53, living in her adopted Florence and awaiting the arrival of a film producer who wants to adapt her 1975 memoir for film. At the same time, Margot meets and falls in love with Alan "Woody" Woodhull, an Illinois-bred guitarist who gigs at the Bebop Club and also teaches literature at the American Academy. Meanwhile, producer Esther Klein desperately wants to make the film The Italian Lover, her first solo production since her husband/production partner left her. The movie crew includes Michael Gardiner, the "middling" director dying of cancer, and Miranda Clark, the young actress desperate to capture the true Margot. Subplots abound and conflicts brew (Woody rescues an abused dog; Miranda has problems with a nude scene), but the characters never come fully to life. Elegant in its colorful use of Italian phrases, cuisine and sites, Hellenga's complex novel offers a vivid, often sophisticated view of modern Florence, but less so of its residents and visitors.
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The Italian Lover
It was a wonderful surprise to find that this book brought the two main characters from The Sixteen Pleasures and The Fall of the Sparrow together. Hellegna has a lovely way of writing so you are able to feel the emotion of his characters and want to follow their lives. A lovely trilogy to read one after the other or as I did spread out by years and still remembering each story as if it was the life of a friend. Save the Italian Lover for last.