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The Italian Lover Hardcover – September 24, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 24, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316117633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316117630
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,654,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Hellenga tells a fast story and creates solid characters...Art, literature, and film are alive for these characters." -- Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe

More About the Author

Robert Hellenga used to ask, "What is the meaning of life?" Now he asks, "What experiences make life meaningful?" He's settled for an adjective rather than a noun. High on his list: teaching a good class, finishing a novel, sex, getting married, having children, cooking dinner, playing the guitar. The usual. But perhaps the highest on his list is having his three daughters leave after Christmas-because it's so sad. It's nostalgia, he realizes that. It's what he tries to avoid when he writes about Christmas, as he does in all his books. But he understands that the only thing worse than having the girls leave would be having them stay.

According to Anais Nin "We write to taste life twice." But we also write to explore mysteries. Mystery is the reality; clarity-seeming clarity-is the illusion. Clarity means you've lost touch with the mystery, that you've succumbed to habit, which, in the words of Proust's Marcel, "conceals from us almost the whole universe." Mystery means that you're still awake.

Hellenga is the author of six novels: The Sixteen Pleasures," "The Fall of a Sparrow," "Blues Lessons," "Philosophy Made Simple," "The Italian Lover," and "Snakewoman of Little Egypt." "Snakewoman" was included in The Washington Post list of best books of 2010 and the Kirkus Reviews list of top 25 novels of 2010.

Customer Reviews

I found this book to be very boring and had a hard time continuing to read it to the end.
Nicoletta
There is little tension in the book, no character whom I cared about, and the dialogue is contrived and offensive at times.
Maxine B. Rosenberg
It is not hard to imagine how, in such a romantic city in this very beautiful part of Italy, love could happen.
Bookreporter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Cleverly written as a sequel, yet a fine stand-alone novel, THE ITALIAN LOVER covers the making of a movie about THE SIXTEEN PLEASURES, in which Robert Hellenga first introduced us to Margot Harrington. Back then, she was a young American woman who traveled to Florence after the devastating flood of 1966, eager to do anything she could to help save some of the world's irreplaceable treasures. In the midst of a crisis in the art world, faced with the almost certain loss of innumerable ancient masterpieces, Margot's skills were not only desperately needed but welcomed. While working to restore paintings and documents, she made a stunning discovery.

As THE ITALIAN LOVER opens, Margot has set up a studio overlooking the Arno River. More than two decades have passed since she first arrived in Florence. She is quite content with her work and her life in general. But a guy named Woody is about to change that.

Brought together by a restlessness neither of them knew they had --- and an incident with a dog --- Woody and Margot grow from acquaintances to friends to lovers. Woody has been homesick lately, and, while Margot certainly eases his longing for the States, he is feeling the tug of the small town he left long ago. For Margot, it is an especially thrilling time. Not only is she involved with a man she enjoys more than any she has met in years, a well-known producer, Esther Klein, has purchased the movie rights to Margot's book. Excited and more than a little bit flattered, Margot launches herself into the project wholeheartedly, as she does with every endeavor in her life. She and Woody work together to create a screenplay, envisioning a variety of stars in the leading roles and picturing the scenes as Margot lived them.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Readers of The Sixteen Pleasures will be delighted with the return of Hellenga's intriguing cast of characters, particularly heroine Margot Harrington. A book conservationist, she first came to Italy following the great flood of 1966. And, to her great amazement she came upon a copy of a book of Renaissance erotic drawings. She also embarked upon a love affair with an Italian art conservator. This coupling, as the song goes was too hot not to cool down, and the affair ended badly but Margot survived, and now the story of her life to date will be filmed.

Producing the film is Esther Klein, once a top notch movie maker with her husband, Harry. Greener pastures beckoned Harry - not younger but greener and he dumped Esther for another woman. To add insult to injury it was a woman of Esther's age. Nonetheless, Esther is now working solo and determined to show Hollywood and the world that she could make a major film on her own. Nothing will stop her, she opines, absolutely nothing.

Margot has found a new love interest in the person of Woody, a professor from Illinois, who had come to Italy for the trial of terrorists who put a bomb in a busy train station killing many, including Woody's daughter. He's a bit at loose ends now, soon pairing with Margot to write the screenplay for her film biography.

Once the cast and crew arrives egos clash, careers as well as life hang in the balance, and lovers connect. All of this against one of the most beautiful, fascinating backdrops in the world - Florence, Italy. Hellenga treats us to vivid descriptions of gustatorial delights, art treasures, and scenic meanderings.

Highly recommended for Italophiles and arm chair travelers with one major caveat - more careful editing. Misspellings are very distracting.

- Gail Cooke
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Broesche on January 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have read each of Hellenga's previous four novels. I continue to do so (despite the slippage in each progressive work) because I appreciate his "romantic sensibility." As a male of about his age, however, I am skeptical that his female characters are "true." I have not researched the reviews of his works, but I suspect that his female characters have been criticized as male constructs. He writes of male-female relationships as males might wish them (myself included, that's why I continue to read him), but . . . does it comport with experience.

This book is worth reading, if you have read "Sixteen Pleasures" and "Fall of a Sparrow." If you have, the story line is far more engaging than I imagine it would be without the back story provided by those two novels. I don't know how I would have reacted to this book without this background. The author's going back to these earlier works can be viewed in (at least) two ways -- is it inventive and creative, or is it a consequence of creative exhaustion? Having read both, I am not sure.

My view is, however, that this is a less engaging read than either of its back stories. Read both first, then make up you own mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maxine B. Rosenberg on April 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you enjoyed The 16 Pleasures by Hellenga and are particularly interested in the flavors and history of Florence, Italy, you naturally would want to read The Italian Lover.
Well, save your money. Mr. Hellenga has compromised his writing to make big bucks. There is little tension in the book, no character whom I cared about, and the dialogue is contrived and offensive at times.
I took the book to Florence,Italy from where I just returned. What a waste of time. I had to force myself to finish the novel whose whiney characters made me want to toss the book into the garbage. I left the book in Italy rather than keep it on my bookshelf next to Hellenga's other novel.
I give this book only one star, although Amazon review says I gave it 2 stars.
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