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I always like to read novels set in places I am visiting so this set in Umbria was right up my street (albeit in Tuscany). I went to various archeological museums and visited many of the hill towns where the Etruscans reigned, and read this book.
It was gripping like a thriller and the story strangely believable but for me the weakness lay in the relationship depicted between the hero - an American woman renting a house in Italy photographing Etruscan tombs - and her best friend married to the most ghastly, pompous and domineering man. All right, we are talking 1922 here but for Sally not to have fought for her friend's freedom harder (especially after the main thrust of the story when time passes and Harriet remains in the asylum), did not ring true. I know women were indeed shut up in lunatic asylums by their male relatives like chattels, but I also think women's friendships found ways to circumnavigate such outcomes, especially when they are drawn as independent people.
I loved reading this book. I am fascinated by the Etruscan civilization (as it happens) and we are planning to visit Umbria in April, so I was in the right frame of mind to start with. But the narrative and the author's powers of description and ability to create an atmosphere, plus the interest of the social background, took me over completely. There was a wonderful sense of place, of mystery and of the quirks of human character which made the book believable whilst also being (a trifle) fantastic. There were no stereotyped characters, which is unusual for a book with a strong narrative. And everything worked out in a convincing way. I recommend it highly to anyone.
I first heard about this book through EReaderNews. A superbly written book which kept me hooked from the first page. The story is about a middle aged woman, named Harriet, who travels out to Italy in the 1920s to photograph Etruscan tombs but there is a good twist to the tale and the novel had me totally captivated. I will definitely read more of this author'swork.
What an unusual and intriguing story. I couldn't put it down, particularly towards the end. Is it a ghost story, or the drug induced fantasies of a deeply disturbed woman. And if it is the latter, is her mental condition hereditary or due to a traumatic event in her teens, This is a brilliant book that keeps you guessing long after the book is finished.
I thougt it was an intriguing subject to deal with. Yes, I did not want to put it down until the end, but that was all. The disapointingly weak ending destroyed the joy of reading. I cannot say it is one of the bright ones of its kind.
As a professional historian and a frequent visitor to Tuscany, I can say that I enjoyed The Etruscan a great deal. Linda Lappin has brought to life a lost world, that of Tuscany in the 1920s, along with a slice of upper-middle class England, the touring set. This is the task of the historical novelist, and Lappin has done it with zest. Though not set in ancient Etruria, the book also illuminates significant aspects of the Etruscan world, especially its funerary rites and its concept of the afterlife. Treading among the genres of mystery, thriller, and fantasy, Lappin weaves a tale of the intrepid Harriet’s search for adventure and romance in the crumbling ruins of a lost civilization. Lappin’s characterization is strong and convincing. I warmed to Harriet, an ahead-of-her-time feminist and adventurer, and found her consistent and appealing. But I was fondest of sturdy Mrs. Parsons, the family’s parlor maid, who is sent to the Tuscan hill country to look after “Miss Harriet.” I took her to be the moral center of the piece, protecting Harriet from the dangerously arrogant, if not specifically evil Stephen. I especially liked her soliloquy about the power of “Mr. Stephen” and men of his ilk who seem to hold the very world in their hands. Recommended for those who enjoy a good historical novel and those with a fondness for the Tuscan hills, the early twentieth-century English idle rich, or the shadowy world of lost Etruria.