REVIEW: The Italian Party by Christina Lynch
The Italian Party
by Christina Lynch
A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena, Italy. Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.
When Scottie’s Italian teacher–a teenager with secrets of his own–disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.
Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.
2.5 out of 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Ehh, this one was kind of a mess for me, and not what I was expecting. The book’s description bills it as “fun” and “funny” but it was really neither of those things for me. I didn’t catch the spy angle that much either. Yes, one of the main characters is a spy…but he seems like Spy Lite compared to others like James Bond or Michael Westen.
It’s the mid 1950’s, and Scottie and Michael are a recently married American couple who have moved to Siena, Italy to sell Ford tractors to technologically impaired Italian farmers–or at least that is the husband’s cover story. In reality, Michael works for the CIA, and he’s on a mission to make sure Siena isn’t taken over by communist factions in the delicate wake of WW2. Scottie, for her part, is intent on being the perfect housewife, because she is concealing a secret of her own. Until the day her teenage Italian tutor goes missing, and she feels compelled to spring into action.
The part of this novel that was kind of funny to me is also the part that’s true–the fact that Michael is trying so hard to live his American life in another country. You can’t just move to Italy and expect that you’ll be able to have instant dinners and fast food and other American conveniences. But America was so afraid of anyone other than themselves after WW2, this was the attitude a lot of people had. Michael’s higher ups send him copies of American magazines like Life and Time and encourage him to leave them around for Italians to find. Scottie is requested to make dinner one night and she has to scrounge around the city to find American ingredients, because Michael is afraid of becoming “too Italian.” It’s all a ridiculous notion but rooted in fact.
The characterization in this book is good for some, and basic for others. It’s true that almost no one you meet in this novel can be trusted at face value, and some that you might have preconceived notions about are actually hiding much deeper issues than you would have thought.
There’s not very much action, to be told, and the biggest mystery of the plot gets solved rather accidentally. The end is also kind of bittersweet. Although Michael and Scottie are not the best people, you end up kind of rooting for them and wish them the best.
About the Author
Christina Lynch is a professor of English at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California. A former Milan correspondent for W and Women’s Wear Daily, she has written on staff for television shows such as The Dead Zone, Encore! Encore!, Unhappily Ever After and Wildfire. The Italian Party is her first novel.
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