“Clare Livingston had known nothing about her uncle’s obituary: not that it had been published internationally (even in the Fankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Corriere della Sera) nor that—most hurtfully to her aunt—it had also appeared in the local weeklies. Only when a lawyer tracked Clare down in Vancouver did she learn the scandal-making nature of her uncle bequest.” ~The Whirling Girl, Barbara Lambert
Clare arrives in Italy to claim her inheritance and to find answers from her uncle. She soon makes new friends and learns more about the local archaeology and culture. As Clare explores her property and paints the local flora, she has to deal with her memories of her uncle—and the scandal of her Amazon book. Lies seem to scatter around her as her questions about her inheritance remain unanswered.
The Whirling Girl is Barbara Lambert’s second novel. She paints a beautiful picture of Italy, complete with a host of local characters. Lambert also delves deep into Clare’s character, showing us a complicated yet intensely interesting young woman. I loved the descriptions of Italy and learning more about its history and how archaeologists work.
One thing I didn’t like about this novel was Clare’s affairs. I could understand that she has been hurt in the past by both her uncle and her ex-husband. Yet I found it hard to understand how she could sleep with a man whom she didn’t love and then with a man whom she knew was married.
The ending of The Whirling Girl also left me unsatisfied. Clare has made a huge discovery on her property, but her relationship with her uncle is unresolved. I realize she isn’t going to heal a relationship with a dead relative, but I wanted her to come to some sort of emotional closure about what happened between them. Maybe that’s a fictional happily-ever-after that isn’t likely to happen in the real world. Yet Clare seems to have learned nothing from what has happened in the novel, and continues to make hasty, bad decisions about what she’s doing next.
This book reminded me of Genni Gunn’s Solitaria, another Canadian literary novel set in Italy with lots of family drama. Lambert drew me into Clare’s story, making me want her to find a happy ending and some form of healing from her past, which is perhaps why I was disappointed when that didn’t happen. I suppose that means Lambert did a very good job of telling the story and making Clare into a real person for me—a person whom I cared about and wanted good things for.