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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.
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.
While this is not my usual genre, I found this book captivating. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the book from start to end. The setting was an adventure as I was unfamiliar with the Etruscan civilization. I felt strong emotions towards the characters. Characters seemed real and well developed. While I thought that I might be disappointed at the ending, I was not.
I felt this was between a Gothic romance and a mystery. I probably would not have been interested in it except for the Etruscan link. However, I felt this was well worth the time to read.
At first I had a little trouble getting into this book because I didn't really "get" the style, but thank goodness I kept on. This extremely original modern-day gothic novel ended up keeping me almost totally engrossed, even if I wasn't 100% convinced by some elements that seemed to hint at the supernatural. Congratulations to Linda Lappin for recreating a series of convincing characters from an earlier epoch (with, perhaps, the exception of the "Etruscan" himself) and all this in a lesser known Italian ambience I'll be reading Signatures in Stone next..
What a pleasure to read the words of a writer who obviously was born to it. I loved Harriett, a very unusual and brave woman for her time, who, quite by accident, stumbles upon an assignment to photograph Etruscan tombs. This accident will prove to profoundly change the remainder of her life. The story is a wonderful mix of character, circumstance, dream, tragedy, and fancy and leaves the reader wondering just how much is "real". The errors which I assume are the result of rendering the book into e-reader format were a bit distracting, but the writing itself is so lush and compelling that I minded less than I usually do.
This is an odd tale told in a way that pulls you in, the mysterious nature of the events that occurred and the contrast between the perspective of persons outside the core relationship keep you wondering right up to the end. I found this one hard to put down.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, the evocative atmosphere and the mysterious and the somewhat erotic storyline. She captures the rural Italy of the 1920's and the little k own Etruscan civilization very well.