Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
The daughter of a famed Neopolitan poet we hear of only as Ferdinando, wreckless, mercurial Esmé (short for Esmeralda) is on vacation in Africa with yet another lover when she decides to stay, setting up house with the safari guide, Adam. It proves a fateful decision. Not only does Esmé find that in Africa "the holes I had been trying to avoid falling into...were now slowly stretching themselves flat on the ground" but she eventually meets Hunter, a journalist she loves passionately and eventually loseswhich is the crux of the story. Marciano is herself an Italian ex-patriate living in Kenya, so it's not surprising that she's good at the details of ex-pat life and the lure of Africa. The girl-finds-boy-and-then-finds-another-boy-and-loses-him plot is pretty routine, though, and one wishes Marciano had dug deeper into the problems of African and not merely the problems of Esmé. This is, however, being highly touted, so expect some interest. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/98.]Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The voice of Italian-born narrator Esmé, which seduces the reader into the world of this intelligent first novel, is sad, tense, darkly foreboding, secretly desperate. From the beginning, we know that this will be a story of missed opportunities, failed love affairs, unfulfilled longings. Juxtaposed with the tale of a woman trying to find herself is a trenchant and striking picture of contemporary Africa. Esmé flees Italy for Kenya after the death of her charismatic father, a poet, and is grateful to find security in an affair with idealistic safari operator Adam. Africa initially seems a paradise to Esmé. She is welcomed into the inbred white community of Nairobi, where alcohol and drugs are routine pleasures, everyone has slept with everyone else and the colonial attitude toward blacks has not changed. When she meets a burning social conscience, restless Esmé recognizes a kindred spirit, and their passionate affair threatens to destroy the only haven she has known. Hunter has covered the carnage in Somalia and Rwanda, and his insistence that Esmé acknowledge the "real" Africathe poverty in which most Africans live, the despoliation of the environmentunsettles her already fragile emotional balance. In the end, she will be caught between two worlds, two lovers and two visions of the future. Marciano's passion for the spectacular landscape of Africa is almost palpable. Her character analysis is often profound as she delicately conveys the moral complexities of social and personal issues. Her Africa is a paradox in every sense: beautiful and tragic, luxuriant and rotting, paradise and hell, Esmé's nemesis and her salvation. This resonantly ironic, beautifully observed novel announces an impressive new talent. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour; rights sold in Germany, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, France, Holland and Brazil; simultaneous Random House audio. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This first novel, set primarily in East Africa, views the white expatriate community of Kenya through the eyes of Esme , an Italian among Anglo-Saxons. She first travels to Africa with a lover to escape her sorrow following the death of her poet father. However, intrigued by an environment that is alien to her experience, she decides to stay and is quickly accepted into the expat community, where her friends range from edgy outsiders, like Esme herself, to loners who are at home only in the bush. Esme eventually becomes entangled in the community's incestuousness while remaining distant from the Africans. (She bemoans the chasm of race and is slightly envious of those who have managed to bridge it.) Against this story, with its numerous witty literary allusions, is the backdrop of recent violence on the continent, first in Somalia, then the Hutu massacre of the Tutsi. These events give the novel a sense of roman aclef that turns the Karen Blixen story inside out and provides a not-so-subtle portrait of contemporary Nairobi. --Frank Caso
Kirkus Book Review
A debut that takes us into an Africa wherewith Marciano as our guidewe are more likely to come upon Bianca Jagger than Nelson Mandela. ``Let's be honest about it,'' heroine Esmé admits early on. ``This is a story about white people in Africa. I am not going to pretend that it is anything else.'' To which it might be helpful to add: not merely white people, but exceptionally bored, chic, and unhappy white people, the sort who snort cocaine in Nairobi restaurants and have trouble remembering whether they've slept with each other. Esmé herself fits in nicely: the Manhattan-bred daughter of a renowned Italian poet, she is taken to Kenya on safari after her father's death and quickly decides to stay on. Its not that she falls in love with Africa, exactlyshe simply seems to have had her fill of everything else. So, she sends her boyfriend back home and moves in with Adam, the safari guide and big-fame hunter, who takes her on as his assistant and mistress, thereby bringing her into the very narrow confines of the expatriate scene. Here, she makes the rounds, shopping by day and clubbing by night, until she falls for Hunter Reed, a British journalist who covers tribal wars, swills champagne, and tries to expand Esmé's horizons a bit. She becomes his lover but is unable to keep up with his needs and his cynicism. Eventually, she goes home to Italy to put him behind her, only to find him on her doorstep in Rome one day. By the time she returns to Africa she knows theres no hope that they can make a life for themselves, but hope, in the end, is beside the point: ``It's because of love. Nobody ever moves to Africa for another reason.'' Idiotic, hackneyed, unbearably pretentious: Marciano's portraits of female vanity and masculine self-absorption would provide the makings of a satire worthy of Waughwere there even the slightest curl of a smile on her lips. (First printing of 50,000; author tour)