The Apprentice Lover: A Novel

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9780066210711: The Apprentice Lover: A Novel

A poet and biographer, Jay Parini is also a novelist whose fiction has been acclaimed as "dazzli/ng," ( Los Angeles Times) "achingly beautiful," ( Washington Post) and "a subtle masterpiece" (John Bayley in the Times Literary Supplement). In his new novel, The Apprentice Lover, Parini evokes the gorgeous Mediterranean island of Capri during the summer of 1970 as the setting for a sensuous, deeply affecting story of a young American's coming into his own and reconciling himself with his past.

When Alex Massolini's brother is killed in Vietnam, he drops out of Columbia University and leaves his conservative family behind for Capri to become secretary to Rupert Grant, a famous British novelist and poet, who dominates the island like a latter-day Prospero. Alex soon finds himself ensnared in a web of love affairs, friendships, and rivalries within the eccentric community that inhabits the idyllic beauty of the isolated Italian island.

Among that group are the selfish, cunning, and brilliant Rupert Grant; his wife Vera, a charming and sophisticated social manipulator; the elusive Holly and the mysterious Marisa, who act as Grant's research assistants; the young philosophy student from the Sorbonne, Patrice LaRue; and Father Aurelio, who is desperate for parishioners.

The Apprentice Lover traces a young American's enchantment and disenchantment-with his American past, with his new European mentor, and with the various characters on an island famous for its characters. As Alex stumbles upon intrigues and secrets, he tries to balance what others demand of him with his own nascent desires. His apprenticeship in love, literature, and life unfolds with a combination of Mediterranean clarity, wry humor, wit, and emotional power that only a master of fiction could orchestrate.

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Review:

Jay Parini's The Apprentice Lover is a smart and sexy coming-of-age novel marked with the sense and sensibility of the '70s and the Vietnam War. After Alex Massolini's brother dies in Vietnam in 1970, Alex drops out of Columbia University and travels to Italy to work as a secretary for Rupert Grant, a famous Scottish writer living on the isle of Capri. Villa Clio, where the irascible Grant lives with his wife, is the center of singular and sybaritic scenes involving Grant's two young research assistants, the unstable Marisa and the aloof Holly. Dinner brings cruel psychological parlor games and such literary luminaries as W.H. Auden, Graham Greene, and Gore Vidal. Brilliantly brittle dinner dialogue is contrasted with the raw, emotional letters to Alex from his brother Nicky in Vietnam. During his months on Capri, Alex learns much about the craft of writing from the riveting yet monstrous Rupert Grant, who comes to resemble the lustful and dictatorial Roman emperor Tiberius, exiled to Capri. In the wake of a tragic death, a romantic off-island interlude, and a thrown dagger, Alex decides to flee Capri, only to come back 30 years later for a final reckoning. In The Apprentice Lover, Parini has created an unforgettable portrait of a literary titan and his youthful apprentice. --Susan Biskeborn

About the Author:

Jay Parini grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He spent seven years in Scotland during the Vietnam era. Although his home is Vermont, where he teaches at Middlebury College, he has lived for extended periods in England and Italy. A poet, novelist, and biographer, he is married to Devon Jersild, a writer, and they have three sons.

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