A mesmerizing story of three generations of a twentieth-century Italian family.
Casa Rossa—a farmhouse in Puglia owned by the Strada family—is being sold. And as she packs up the house, Alina Strada pieces together the history of her family’s past, and of the lives of three extraordinary Strada women.
Grandmother Renée, a beautiful Tunisian, is wife, muse, and model for Alina’s painter grandfather, but she leaves him and flees to Nazi Germany. Alina’s mother, Alba, marries a melancholic screenwriter and lives la dolce vita in 1950s Rome until her husband’s mysterious death. Isabella, Alina’s sister and once her best friend, finds herself drawn to a dangerous ideology in the 1970s; the sisters’ love for one another soon shifts to a betrayal of which they can never speak. As these individual lives unfold, so does the larger one—the story of a family whose secrets collide with history.
From the duplicity of Italy’s role in the thirties to the dark years of terrorism in our own times, and moving from Rome and Southern Italy to New England and New York City, Casa Rossa is a brilliant weave of lives and memories: an enthralling novel.
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In Casa Rossa, Roman native Francesca Marciano tells a riveting tale of three generations of women whose separate acts of betrayal set the stage for later destruction. Renée, the grandmother, forsakes her artist husband and her life in rural Puglia at Casa Rossa, to live with a woman. Alba, her daughter, takes a lover and pushes her husband to suicide. Isabella and Alina, Alba's daughters, take extreme measures to keep each other out of their lives, leading to upheaval. Told through the voice of the youngest daughter, Alina, Casa Rossa weaves the selling and closure of the family estate with the family's sordid and unforgettable history. Spanning the 20th century and providing entrée into the not-so-incompatible worlds of Italian cinema and political terrorism, Marciano, author of Rules of the Wild, reveals an authenticity in the way this emotionally warped family comes to terms with its fragmented past. It's a fine, highly entertaining work, laced with lovely writing and emotionally resonant characters. --Emily RussinFrom the Back Cover:
“Down in Puglia, the ‘heel’ of Italy, an artist paints on his patio wall an enormous portrait of the wife who has just left him. It greatly upsets the neighbors, who now avoid the [house], Casa Rossa...The best thing to do is to cover the whole fresco over with white paint...This episode, related early in Marciano’s novel, has a resonant metaphoric significance...The thesis behind Casa Rossa is that Italy has made a habit of removing from public scrutiny anything that might disturb the national conscience; instead of asking questions and trying to answer them, the country prefers a consumerist hedonism...But this is a novel, not a work of history, and the feelings and thoughts of Alina [the narrator], a child of la dolce vita, are made vividly and sympathetically manifest ...The urgency of Alina’s belief in the need for honest dealings with the past carries us along; we are made to re-evaluate history and to look at the human cost both of ideals and failures in ideals...Marciano [has an] imaginative command of detail, and a firm grasp of historical context. The period she describes may have been given a stylish apotheosis by Fellini, but it can survive now only in elegies which, like this one, are really indictments.” –Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement
“A family epic [that] revolves around three generations of extraordinary women...Francesca Marciano turns a cliché on its head. Italy, not the United States, is the land of forgetting. The Italians in Casa Rossa frequently choose self-delusion, both on the personal and national levels, rather than face the consequence of their actions, and the only character who tells the truth is an American. The book unrolls like a movie; many of the characters work in the industry [during] the golden era of ‘La Dolce Vita.’ Fans of Marciano’s first novel will once again embrace her sensual descriptions of exotic lands, [but] she has more on her mind that the thrills of exoticism...At the heart of the novel is an unmade screenplay, ‘a story’ [says one of the characters] ‘about truth itself.’ One could make the same claim about nearly every page of this book.” –J. Alex Tarquino, San Francisco Chronicle
“Every family has its secrets, but some are more tenacious, more deeply rooted than others. In Casa Rossa, her affecting, beautifully told second novel, Francesca Marciano demonstrates this truth by elegantly tracing the fault lines that run through three generations of an Italian family...sorting through decades of denial and collective memory, searching for answers to a host of questions that have hovered for years...Truth has a way of rising to the surface when you least expect it...[Casa Rossa is] rich and resonant...briskly paced, with taut plot lines offering just enough dramatic tension to support the well-drawn characters in style...Marciano is a natural-born storyteller.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Not many authors can take you on an emotion-packed ride from Rome during La Dolce Vita to the avant-garde art world of 1980s New York. Marciano masterfully tackles this fictional adventure and turns it into an enthralling tour de force...The novel’s flashback episodes are seamlessly woven into the narrative...The gritty details of modern Italian life make Casa Rossa impossible to put down.” –USA Today
“There’s something about our houses that strikes us in our very souls...Marciano masterfully brings...a family's ancestral home, Casa Rossa, to life, as well as the narrator Alina's deep love for it. She likewise powerfully evokes the beautiful southern Italian province of Puglia–on the heel of Italy’s boot–where Alina’s family comes from. The landscape serves as a sort of character unto itself...History plays a huge role in this story–Italian history, but also family history, with its selective remembrance. Marciano has written an engaging, sweeping and compulsively readable novel. It culminates in a powerful love story, but also supplies a fresh look at 20th-century Italy. She makes her readers fall in love with Casa Rossa...Marciano has an elegant and captivating style, [and] by the often surprising closing chapters, she has made us as reluctant as Alina to clear out of Casa Rossa.” –Washington Post Book World
“With her first novel, Italian writer Francesca Marciano garnered critical praise for her elegant, eloquent prose and for placing the romance within a political context. Marciano displays both those gifts in her second work of fiction, a tale of family secrets and sorrows centered on a farmhouse in southern Italy...Sexual and political betrayal intertwine, and the passion for social justice springs from personal wounds. Casa Rossa is notable for its rueful understanding of the volatile mix of emotions that binds us to those we love...Happily, the Italian actors in this drama remain credible and complex.” –Los Angeles Times
“In this passionate tale of three generations of one 20th-century Italian family, Marciano brings Southern Italy as boldly to life as she did Kenya in Rules of the Wild...The author imperturbably weaves intricate complications together into a glamorous, romantic whole.” –Publishers Weekly
“Betrayal, abandonment, stolen lovers, and secrets...spiced with those special Italian flavors: beauty, melodrama, and–of course–murder...A great read.” –Daily Candy
“Ms. Marciano casts a sharp eye on the society that surrounds the family of the Casa Rossa. Her Italy is full of lies. The big ones stop the nation from facing the world; the small have the advantage of helping the world go round. But the search for truth takes courage, and the lesson learned in her novel is that the violence of the anni di piombo [years of terror] achieved nothing.” –The Economist
“The Rules of the Wild author amps up the glamour and mystery in her sophisticated novel about Italian sisters who clash over family, politics and men. Think La Dolce Vita turned topical tale.” –Glamour
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