In my continuing series of reading material for Italophiles, this week I am highlighting fiction. I have read a healthy number of novels set in or breezing through Italy; unfortunately many of them left me shaking my head at the errors, stereotypes, or poorly-conceived plots. This is in no way an exhaustive list, just a few that I enjoyed more than others.
FICTION SET IN ITALY
A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
Classic novel that set many an English speaker scrambling to Florence to find that famous view.
Very Valentine by Adrianna Trigiani
Great novel that combines two of my passions – shoes and Italy! An Italian-American shoemaker strives to keep the family business afloat, and travels to the Old Country for supplies and inspiration.
The Commissario Brunetti mysteries. Death at La Fenice is the first in the series by Donna Leon
Loveable Venetian detective and his polished wife invite us into the various aspects of life and culture in the surreal city of Venice.
The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker
Sweeping historical novel transports us into the workshops of Venetian mask makers as an entré into the Most Serene Republic, in all her intrigue, deception and glory.
The Fortuny Gown by Rosalind Laker (out of print)
Another of Laker’s sumptuous historical novels, this one starts off in Lucca and takes us to Venice through the glorious gowns created by Mariano Fortuny. (His workshop is now a museum.)
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
Vreeland paints a beautiful portrait of 17th century Italy with lavish descriptions of food and scenes to take us into the life and artwork of Artemisia Gentileschi.
The Raphael Affair (Art History Mysteries) series by Iain Pears (Raphael Affair is the first one.)
A series of quick-read novels that follow the crime investigation expertise of Rome’s Art Theft Squad and art dealer Jonathan Argyll to unravel the mysteries while showing various aspects of the art world, such as forgery, smuggling and acquisitions. I picture the somewhat bumbling Jonathan as a Hugh Grant character.
Renato's Luck: A Novel by Jeff Shapiro
Rich in character sketches of Tuscan personalities, habits and quirks, Renato’s Luck follows a disheartened guy suffering from midlife crisis who sets out to change his luck, and that of his friends, as well.
Playing For Pizza by John Grisham
A humiliated football player flees the rabid Browns fans and seeks refuge in the little-known Italian football league. Breezy but fun.
The Broker by John Grisham
A high-profile attorney and power broker gets in over his head and winds up as a political pawn. Full of the intrigue and political plays that Grisham is famous for, it reads like the screenplay it will no doubt become.
Italian Reading List, Part I - Memoirs
Italian Reading List, Part II - Guides and Nonfiction