Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Light In the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer

This novella inspired one of my favorite classic movies, which is Finally! available on dvd.

Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara appear to be just the typical American tourists visiting Italy in the 1950s. But appearances are often deceiving. Though temperamentally sweet and physically beautiful, Clara is in fact the mental equivalent of a child of ten. Certainly the handsome young Italian man, Fabrizzio Naccarelli they meet can’t tell that anything is amiss.

Smitten with Clara, he contrives to meet her on the daily mother-daughter sightseeing excursions. He and Clara have an instant rapport that transcends the awkward language barrier.

Of course Mrs. Johnson is worried. In the past she has often had to take young men aside and gently explain the problem with Clara. But with Fabrizzio she keeps putting it off. After all, this is only a vacation, they will be returning to America soon, so why not, just once, let her enjoy the dream of romance, even if it is just a fairy tale that, though it will not end happily ever after, will end, and soon.

But the more time passes, and the more she observes the interaction and attraction between Clara and Fabrizzio, Mrs. Johnson begins to see things differently. Fabrizzio likes, loves, and accepts Clara for who she is, he doesn’t see any problem, and in his simple Italian world Clara’s beauty and innocence are much admired. Clara could make a happy life here with Fabrizzio and his family and her mother becomes determined to give her the chance.

If you’ve seen the movie, I think you’ll enjoy the story that inspired it, and if you haven’t seen it but decide to read the book first make sure you treat yourself to a viewing as soon as you can afterwards, it’s a real treat.

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