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Fabrizio’s Return

by Mark Frutkin

Alchemy, astronomy, cuckoldry, and would-be saints – Mark Frutkin’s newest novel, his 10th, is as full of action and ribaldry as an Italian commedia cellaret or a comedy by Shakespeare. Given that, Fabrizio’s Return should be a romp. However, Frutkin pumps so much detail into the book that your head hurts from information overload more than your sides ache from laughter.

The book opens on Aug. 26, 1682, in Cremona, Italy. Fabrizio Cambiati, a priest whose explorations of the far reaches of philosophy have led him to experiments with the supernatural, climbs a tower with a telescope. He and his friend Omero are going to observe Halley’s comet, which is supposed to appear after 76 years of absence. The comet is indeed there, but through their telescope the two observers also spot Michele Archienti, a Jesuit, entering the town. Archienti has been sent by Rome to investigate Cambiati’s sanctity, or lack thereof.

Acting as the Devil’s advocate, Archienti listens skeptically to testimony about Cambiati’s supposed miracles. He suspects Cambiati of having been involved in a most unreligious way with a woman who is now a grand duchess. Yet he himself is drawn to the old lady’s great-granddaughter. Both dalliances are mirrored in a Harlequin-type play performed in the town square.

The book ends on the morning after the comet’s appearance, with the grand duchess giving birth to a daughter, while at that same exact moment a baby starts to form inside her great-granddaughter. Apparently we are meant to wonder at the universe’s magical wheels within wheels, but you may only want to cry Basta! Enough already!


Reviewer: Mary Soderstrom

Publisher: Knopf Canada


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 316 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-676-97727-8

Released: Feb.

Issue Date: 2006-1

Categories: Fiction: Novels