Siracusa by Delia Ephron; 2016
I recently joined Book of the Month Club, and Siracusa was my first selection. No regrets. Siracusa is largely the tense portrait of two marriages coming undone during a vacation abroad.
Lizzie is a magazine writer in New York City; her husband Michael, a playwright and novelist. Finn owns a restaurant in Portland, Maine, where he lives with his wife, Taylor, and their ten-year-old daughter Snow. Years before the two couples travel together for a vacation in Italy, Lizzie and Finn had had a brief romance.
The couples – plus Snow – travel first to Rome where things start to get weird. Lizzie senses a growing distance between herself and Michael, and flirtatious Finn is thinking about starting an affair with a lobsterwoman back in Portland. Taylor meanwhile acts as a mouthpiece for her nearly silent daughter, who is on the verge of a bizarre erotic awakening. Their trip concludes in Siracusa, an ancient coastal town in Sicily, where the deceit and the tension come to head in a disastrous turn. Plus, there’s something weird about Snow.
I really enjoyed Siracusa. It was fun and felt like an indulgent read. The characters aren’t likable, which makes it even more fun. Each character interrupts and reinterprets the others’ narratives with differing perspectives, heightening the tension and obscuring any truths.
My main disappointment was the amount of ambiguity at the novel’s conclusion. There is a taut build-up, but Ephron so expertly obscures the reality of the ending that it’s impossible to sort out the truth from the lies. That’s the point I guess – and it was obviously well done – but it made me difficult to sort out my final feelings for the book. Regardless, definitely an enjoyable, worthwhile read. Certainly a conversation starter.