by Delia Ephron
New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.
With her inimitable psychological astuteness and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none will see coming.
Deeply unhappy characters
Siracusa is told from four alternating points of view- Lizzie, Michael, Taylor, and Finn. Two married couples with capital P, PROBLEMS. Each of the characters is deeply unhappy, pathologically so. The emotional warfare waged in these pages is subtle, but probably my favorite parts to read. The friendships between each of the characters are complicated by a variety of factors including time, previous relationships, and current affairs. It stressed me out, just imagining being in any of their shoes- but Ephron did a good job of showing how fraught those types of relationships can be.
My favorite deeply unhappy character in "Siracusa" was Taylor, particularly her relationship with her daughter, Snow. Taylor has a creepy, "Mommy Dearest" vibe coming from her relationship with Snow, who is sheltered and coddled to the point of emotional abuse. Those two characters could easily have been their own book that would have been enthralling in its own right. Snow and Taylor's relationship were some of the only moments in the book where I really found myself reflecting on what the author was showing the reader,. Their plot lots made me question what a parental role should look like- and how it isn't like you get extra credit as a parent if you are doing more than you need to, you're not a better parent for it- which is difficult I think for some to grapple with as a parent.
What I Struggled With
Delia Ephron created a cast of unlikely flawed characters. Reading this book felt like being at a social gathering where I just hate everyone, and want to leave as soon as physically possible- which was unfortunately 4 days after the party started I'm not a speed reader under the best of conditions - and for my reading tastes, these were some of the worst.
The writing in "Siracusa" was repeatedly foreshadowing this big event that would eventually happen on their Italian vacation. And . The only reason I did not put the book down once I was frustrated with the characters, was my anticipation for the "big event". That's a lot of pressure and while there is certainly a twist ending in the book, it is so frequently mentioned, and built up - that it fell a little flat for me. Particularly because the Amazon summary bills it as something "no one will see coming"- however, I would guess that most readers would have predicted the ending.
Have you read "Siracusa"? What did you think of this book? Was it what you expected or were you as frustrated with these characters as I found myself to be? Thinking about reading "Siracusa? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click the link below to view the book on Amazon.