Monday, February 13, 2012

"The Detour"

Born in 1970 in Chicago, Andromeda Romano-Lax worked as a freelance journalist and travel writer before turning to fiction. Her first novel, The Spanish Bow, was translated into eleven languages and was chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, BookSense pick, and one of Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Detour, and reported the following:
The top of page 69 happens to be a precis for the entire novel. It includes a reference to the F├╝hrer, who has visited Italy just a few months before our main character, Ernst Vogler, travels to Rome to collect the classical statue called the Discus Thrower, which Hitler has purchased against the objections of many Italians. Photos of the May 1938 trip show Hitler looking dreamy, dazzled by Italy’s antiquities. But Vogler can’t afford to be dazzled.

As the narrator reflects,
World leaders, busy as they were, could afford to look ahead and behind—but not the rest of us, who were merely living day to day, trying not to slip up, trying not to embrace the wrong historical lessons or even the wrong teachings from our own recent personal histories. All too often a quick glance over the shoulder could turn into a risky detour.
The rest of the novel is about that unadvised glance—the remembering, facilitated by the meditative quality of travel, which allows Ernst to consider what got him into the position he is in, working for the Nazis in the realm of art acquisition. It allows him to consider his troubled past, including both ruined athletic dreams and a trauma involving his father.

But The Detour is not all about memory. It’s also about moment-to-moment mishap. Enzo, an Italian policeman, starts the next twist in the misadventure on the bottom of the same page, when he starts pining aloud about a wedding feast that will be taking place that very night, off a winding Tuscan sideroad. Enzo wants to attend in order to spend some amorous time with the bride’s sister, Farfalla. But of course that can’t happen. They have a statue to deliver. They have a deadline. Things haven’t gone so well already. With Enzo and his twin brother at the wheel, things will only get worse.
Learn more about the book and author at Andromeda Romano-Lax's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Spanish Bow.

--Marshal Zeringue