THIS BOOK CONSISTS of a novella and five short stories (two long, three short). It is the novella that has given its title to the collection, and from the prominence accorded to it on the jacket one might assume, from a casual glance, that it was all that was on offer. It is, however, the weakest of the items.
At its start, a sexagenarian, world-famous American painter looks back on a brief stay in Taormina in the Sixties while travelling in Italy on a shoestring. Having ventured into the grandest hotel in the place, the Palazzo $01-0fo, r a drink, he there sees, and is seen by, a couple seated below him on the terrace. At once he is, as he puts it, 'intrigued' by them, and soon engineers a conversation. The woman, who appears to be in her mid-thirties, turns out to be a German Grii,fin of impressive lineage and huge wealth. Her companion, all too obviously gay, is both her doctor and her confidant. In no time at all, the doctor has made a proposal to the young man. He will be provided with a fiee room in the extremely costly hotel and have all hs expenses covered if