Title: Siracusa by Delia Ephron
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
An electrifying novel about marriage and deceit from bestselling author Delia Ephron that follows two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from one another are exposed and relationships are unraveled.
New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.
With her inimitable psychological astuteness and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.
In Siracusa by Delia Ephron, two couples’ vacation in Italy is the perfect recipe for disaster. Two troubled marriages + one enigmatic, manipulative child + secrets = a vacation to remember for all the wrong reasons.
New York couple Michael and Lizzie join their Portland, ME friends Finn, Taylor and daughter Snow for what should be an idyllic Italian vacation. Told in retrospect from the four adults points of view, their trip starts innocently enough but it is quite clear that, at some point, things began to rapidly deteriorate once they arrive in Siracusa. While none of the characters are particularly likable, they are certainly colorful and interesting and the sequence of events leading up to the disastrous end of their stay in Siracusa is riveting.
Lizzie is a bit of a free spirit whose writing career is frustratingly stalled. Devoted to Michael, she knows all of his secrets but she lovingly overlooks his faults. She is hoping the trip will close the distance that has suddenly appeared between them, but she is still a little drawn to her ex-boyfriend Finn.
Michael is a Pulitzer prize winning author whose latest novel is not going as well as he would like. He is not at all thrilled with the joint vacation and he spends a good part of his day trying to avoid Lizzie. Michael is charming and larger than life and he easily captivates both Snow and Taylor during their vacation.
Finn owns a thriving restaurant but he is surprisingly immature and not overly observant. Fun-loving, flirtatious and laidback, he is a hands-off dad who lets his wife have her way in pretty much every aspect of their life. The events in Siracusa definitely leave their mark on him and he is the only one who makes any effort to get help dealing with happened while they were there.
Taylor is controlling, obsessive and completely clueless about everything. She believes Snow can do no wrong and she is so blinded by love for her child that she cannot (or will not) see how manipulative her daughter is. Dismissive of Finn, she makes no effort to hide her contempt for her husband and she refuses to shoulder her share of the blame for their dysfunctional relationship. Of the four adults, Taylor is the least likable and her viewpoint of the events certainly seems to be the most skewed.
Snow is quiet and unassuming but it does not take long to see how sly and manipulative she is. She takes full advantage of her father’s inattention and her mother’s inability to see through her antics. Snow is thoroughly enthralled by Michael and it is easy to see how his sudden attention to her leads to her crush on him. Taylor thoroughly underestimates her daughter while Finn is quietly amused by Snow’s cunning which does not bode well for anyone who crosses her path.
Siracusa by Delia Ephron is a fiendishly clever novel that is fast-paced and compelling. The characters are deplorable and their behavior is appalling but the plot is so spellbinding it is easy to overlook the unsavory characters. A sense of foreboding permeates the story right from the very first page and despite the feeling that something pretty awful is going to happen, the conclusion is still incredibly shocking.
I highly recommend this well-written novel to readers of contemporary literary fiction.