Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Siracusa.
Siracusa is a particularly creative novel, a tale of two couples taking a yearly vacation together after a successful venture in London the year before. New Yorkers Michael and Lizzie are heading to Siracusa, Italy, with Finn and Taylor Dolan and their daughter,
10-year-old Snow. Now in their 40s, Michael, a published author and playwright, is at work on a new novel; Lizzie makes a lesser career writing magazine articles and basking in Michaelís fame. They have no children. A restaurateur, Finn Dolan and Lizzie are friends who still enjoy a mild flirtation.. Finnís wife, Taylor,
is usually absorbed in parenting stunning Snow. Mother and daughter are striking together, blonde beauties, the shy girl uncommunicative but watchful, her mother elegant and edgy, perhaps more than required for residents of Portland, Maine.
The trip begins in Rome, the couples to visit Siracusa after two days exploring the bustling city. Some of the difficulties between the couples, certainly their personalities, fall into place in Rome. Taylor
is inseparable from her daughter, as though they think with one mind. Finn, happy in the role of odd-man-out as wife and daughter take the large bed and he a cot, wanders the city, a night owl who enjoys the bars and night life, sampling the food and wines of the region. He and Michael donít know each other well, but Finn enjoys Lizzieís enthusiasms and idiosyncrasies, the friends sharing local restaurants while Taylor organizes tours for herself and Snow. While Lizzie hopes to win back her husbandís attention from his love affair with his new novel, Snow is falling under the writerís spell, enchanted by the stories he relates over dinner and the way he treats her like a grownup. Intuiting the budding friendship between writer and admiring child, Taylor basks in the glow, brightened by the experience, as if she is the object of his interest, albeit subconsciously.
The novel is written from the perspective of these characters. Each couple exposes their secrets, lies, vulnerabilities, and dissatisfactions--all but Snow, who remains an enigma. The disparate facts come into focus through individual observations as the days pass. Events draw them together and pull them apart, reconfiguring relationships, exacerbating differences, the chasm between the men never as deep as that between Taylor and Lizzie. Each evolves with the pressures of their interactions, each spilling secrets and private thoughts about their mates and companions. An unexpected event precipitates the certainty of exposure for one of the group, reality intruding on the careful complicity of couples meant only to share a pleasant Italian vacation, nothing deeper. Caught up in their own worlds in an unfamiliar landscape, the two couples
(and Snow) are caught in a drama that will change each relationship, the fragile fabric of marriage stretched taut by lies, betrayal, and the unique narcissism of a contemporary society.
Senses jaded by comfortable lifestyles at home, the visitors drop into an exotic locale to enact their marital dramas, closely observed by the ubiquitous Snow. A true contretemps ensues, the shocking consequences of private indulgence surfacing in Siracusa. There is a cold brutality beneath the whispered discussions
and the hurried plans, all coming together in mutual need to escape consequences, to swallow whole a foul conspiracy and a shared vacation run amuck. Ephron writes with a light touch that belies the ugliness afoot, characters more deeply flawed than appearances suggest, sheltered by the bustling commerce of tourism.