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The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  141 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Elizabeth Spencer is captivated by Italy. Collected in this volume are The Light in the Piazza, which is her signature piece, and six other Italian tales in which her American characters encounter and respond to the mysteries of Italian mores.
Hardcover, 239 pages
Published December 3rd 2005 by Banner Books (first published 1960)
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I don't know why I was drawn to this particular collection of stories - perhaps it was the title, with its arcane meaning; perhaps the setting, which is a country I've never been to but for a long time wanted to see at least once. Because, let's be honest - who wouldn't?

The Light in the Piazza is the story of Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara, who travel to Italy to spend their vacation in Florence - where they met a local boy, Fabrizio, who develops an attraction towards Clara. However, M
Aug 27, 2014 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
The title story (which became a famous musical I never saw) is deft, leanly constructed and surprisingly powerful (even as it leaves you quite uneasy about a number of things). Its tale (with a twist) of Americans or Brits in Italy, love, money, and marriage falls neatly into a tradition I adore that dates to Room with a View, if not before, and moves through Edith Wharton (and Spencer is something like a very minor Edith Wharton in style and sensibility) to the divine Shirley Hazzard, and found ...more
One rather feels sympathy and admiration and some fondness for most of the characters, which speaks for success of the writer of Lights in the Piazza. The girl with an arrested development of mind at ten due to fever that affected her to a degree where she won't be able to have a life in US but is offered a reprieve due to a different culture in Italy and a different social set up, so she won't have to do anything but be as lovable as she is, the mother who is practical and able to outfox the wi ...more
Sherill Leonardi
May 07, 2015 Sherill Leonardi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through a mother-daughter relationship Elizabeth Spencer's contemplative novel explores the way we interpret the concepts of mental ability. On the pretext of a holiday, Margaret Johnson takes her brain-injured daughter, Clara, to Italy. In reality Margaret needs to escape the prying eyes and whispers of her "friends." Both mother and daughter are absorbed into the rhythm and beauty of Italy leaving both of them forever changed. With a subtle wit, Elizabeth Spencer transports the reader to 1950' ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I’ve wanted to read “The Light in the Piazza” by Elizabeth Spencer for some time now. I remember first reading about the musical version years ago in my local paper when it came to my city, and I wanted really bad to see it. It looked really good and the story about Clara and Fabrizzio, and her mother Margret sounded really interesting!

So I finally got the original novella and I totally enjoyed it! It’s a great story and I just really loved Clara and Fabrizzio’s relationship and finding each ot
Mar 09, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of humor, romance, depth, fine writing
This book actually has 7 stories - The Light in the Piazza and Knights and Dragons are novella-length, and The Cousins is a bit more substantial too. The other stories are slighter fare but still quite enjoyable.

"The Light in the Piazza" is a little masterpiece. It was written in Montreal in the course of one snowstormy month in 1958. It is dated in the sense that these days, there would be all sorts of special education classes for Clara, and her mother Margaret would probably never have taken
Oct 22, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the delicate precision of her prose. She writes about beautiful women who've had crack ups or are on the verge of them and their arrogant men. She doesn't give a lot away in her characterizations, she doesn't give us much access to the inner lives of her characters, and usually I don't like that, but it suits her style. One vapid character in "Knights and Dragons" loses 15 pounds by eating salami for ten days, a diet I mean to try if it ever comes to that. Sometimes there is some exciting ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Vivian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Try as I might, I did not finish this collection of stories. For many years I heard wonderful things about the titular story, "The light in the Piazza," so it was very disappointing when I found it did not live up to the hype. It seemed curiously unformed and unfinished.

Most of the stories in the book (I read all but one) concerned Americans abroad in Italy. Aside from some insightful character analyses sprinkled here and there, I'm left scratching my head as to why I felt so curiously unmoved
Estelle Ford-williamson
This is the first novel I recall reading for fun rather than assignment. It is fresh today, and deals with the tugs between doing what you think is right and what is best for the child/woman that is represented by the young character in the book. The book became a Broadway musical, and you might want to listen to the score, written by Richard Rodgers' grandson Adam Guettel. It's an uplifting story, and quite a tribute to Ms. Spencer's talent to have a story put to music. That a person's early wr ...more
Feb 22, 2007 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Nice collection of short stories. The first, Light in the Piazza--actually more of a novella than a short story is the best. (It is also the basis for the Broadway musical of the same name.) It was really enjoyable to read this - having been to Florence before, I can say that Spencer effectively evokes its atmosphere. The mother/daughter relationship was complex and interesting, and I liked how at first the story seemed to be about the daughter, but it's really about the mother.
May 26, 2015 Rinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for trip to Italy. Enjoyed all but Knights and Dragons. Not sure how helpful it was to read for the trip.
Okay I finally got through all the short stories in this book. I really liked most of them, short stories are just so charming. I didn't love "Knights and Dragons" it got a little long in the tooth. I adored "White Azalea" and all the others were very winsome.
John Finnegan
May 16, 2012 John Finnegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I was given this as a gift because I love the musical stage version of Light in the Piazza. That story did not disappoint nor did the others. Well worth reading.
Jul 19, 2010 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short stories about Southerners in Italy. I think Elizabeth Spencer would be my best friend. Intriguing reading up to this point. Loving every minute. :)
I want to revisit this one again someday! I read most of the stories in this collection. My favorite was "The Light in the Piazza."
Jul 28, 2008 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impeccable writing, if uneven collection. In addition to the title, I fell in love with "The Cousins." A must for any Peter Taylor fans.
Dec 02, 2010 Bebop2 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stars for Light in the Piazza and Knights and Dragons. Four stars for The Cousins.
Jun 18, 2009 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a cute read... although Mr. Niccorelli is rather creepy in my opinion.
Mar 23, 2009 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm enjoying her style. Lovely short stories.
Nov 09, 2013 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Light in the Piazza was amazing.
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Born in Carrollton, Mississippi, Spencer was valedictorian of her graduating class at local J.Z. George High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi and her Master's Degree in Literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1943.

Spencer taught at the junior-college level for two years before accepting a job with the Nashville Tennessean,
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