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The time is 1943, a time of war. The place is the hill-perched town of Nemi, in the Alban Hills south of Rome, overlooking the crater lake where, 2000 years before, the Roman emperor Caligula sailed his gigantic ships to the Temple of Diana. Just a few years before the war, the ancient ships, sunk after Caligula’s death, were miraculously recovered from the lake and placed in a lakeside museum. Paolo, the museum curator, now struggles to protect these treasures from Allied bombs and the depredations of the Germans in a world where the struggle for simple survival makes such efforts seem irrelevant. He watches with disquiet as the German occupation brings together Rosanna, his daughter, whose innocence is brutalized by the horrors of the war, and Klaus, a German officer whose high ideals and love for Rosanna cause him soul-wrenching conflicts of loyalty. Love? Or duty?
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When I first set eyes on Lake Nemi, a cobalt-blue disc nestled in an extinct volcanic crater, I had the same reaction as Sir James Frazer, as immortalized in the opening lines of his classic, The Golden Bough: the feeling that no one who has seen this place can ever forget it. I found it beautiful, yes, but what I found even more remarkable about Lake Nemi – apart from the fact that American tourists had not yet discovered it – was its incredibly rich history, a history that stretches back 3000 years. I knew I had to write a book about it. But in my book, I wanted to show war-time Italy – what it was like to be an Italian under German occupation, what it may have been like to have been a loyal German officer who did not support Nazism. Most of all, I wanted to imagine in the book an answer to the question of how the precious ancient ships brought up from the bottom of Lake Nemi could have been lost, all the while weaving into the story the rich and long history that surrounds them.About the Author:
A. R. Homer has been fascinated with World War II all his life. A native of Birmingham, England, he grew up hearing stories of privation and devastation, of ration cards and shortages, and of the bomb that almost destroyed his parents’ house. As a history major at Oxford University, he developed a serious interest in World War II. Later, he moved to Normandy, France, to study the battles in which ordinary men determined the course of history. Currently, he and his wife live in New Jersey, where he is working on this next book, The Sobs of Autumn.
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