When Pietro Russell, the anti-hero of A Fool’s Alphabet, thinks of an afterlife, he imagines ‘a hell that is entirely composed of hotel bathrooms’. There will be the bars of soap, too tightly packed in their miniature wrappers and the roll of lavatory paper, neatly folded on the end sheet into a ‘V’ by the maid who has cleared up after the last transient occupant. This is a novel about transience, and of travel as metaphor for restless humanity. It is sophisticated and witty, yet beneath the irony and humour it sparkles with warm insight.
Pietro’s psychological journey begins in Anzio and ends in Zanica. In the meantime he has become so confused by his scheduled flight from A to Z that in New York, at a Jewish wedding, he imagines he is in Jerusalem. This is a story of embarrassment and of often outright