Unfortunately, the platitudes outnumber the brilliant passages. This is really a series of short stories, set in occupied Naples in sum...moreWildly uneven.
Unfortunately, the platitudes outnumber the brilliant passages. This is really a series of short stories, set in occupied Naples in summer 1944, inter-woven with a series of first person narratives about Burns' own experiences in North Africa and Italy during the war. These "promenade" sections particularly tedious to me. Throughout, Burns often strains to be profound, making broad generalizations about Americans and Italians that seem more suitable perhaps for a sociology textbook. Mr. Author, please show, don't tell us!
Among the short stories, "Momma," set in a Neapolitan "gay bar" frequented by American servicemen, is quite good. I also liked "Queen Penicillin," which relates the experience of a GI undergoing treatment for syphllis. Perhaps they could be anthologized, because they could really stand on their own.(less)
The randomness of life. . . the peculiarity of families. . . the intensity of belief, and of unbelief . . . the relentless search for patterns in what...moreThe randomness of life. . . the peculiarity of families. . . the intensity of belief, and of unbelief . . . the relentless search for patterns in what initially appears to be a random universe . . . the calm essence of the English countryside.
Careful readers of this collective biography of Penelope Fitzgerald's uncles (and her father) will discover many clues to understanding the matrix of meanings in her delightful and deep fiction.
One brother the editor of "Punch," England's most successful humor magazine. One brother a brilliant classical scholar and code-breaker who played a central role in deciphering the German Enigma code-machine during World War II. One brother a quiet and holy Anglo-Catholic recluse. One brother a widely beloved Roman Catholic priest who translated the Bible singlehandedly - and wrote detective novels on the side.
Penelope Fitzgerald was a Booker-prize winning novelist who published a much-admired series of small, gem-like novels from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Set in a variety of places - Italy, Germany, Russia, London - and in a variety of times - the 1950s, pre World War I Cambridge, early 19th century Germany - they are among my favorite recent fictions. In "The Knox Brothers" you really get a clear sense "where she was coming from." I much enjoyed the fondness and the sympathy which was behind nearly every page of this "family history." This was only the second book which Penelope Fitzgerald wrote, but it is written with a modest mastery that readers will also find in her later books.(less)