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Angela Bianchini. Nevada.

Milan. Frassinelli. 2002. 186 pages. 14.50 [euro]. ISBN 88-7684-707-3

WITH NEVADA, her latest novel, Angela Bianchini returns to an American setting. The mysterious land toward which the young girl of The Edge of Europe sailed under dramatic circumstances has become a place of discovery for a young Italian woman in a failed marriage. We are in Nevada in the early 1950s. Young and not-so-young women flock to that state to file for divorce, which--as everyone knows--is granted rapidly. Nevada law, however, requires the applicants to spend forty-two days in the state before obtaining their freedom. Some women spend the waiting period as guests of a dude ranch that caters solely to them, thereby setting the stage for the novel in a classic manner. All the characters are gathered in a place they cannot leave, an unknown landscape surrounds them, and their stories are a secret. Although the premise suggests pathetic developments, the narration moves at a lively and swift pace, just like the 1950 Mercury driven by the owner of the ranch at the beginning of the novel. Perhaps because even unhappy love stories have the fragrance of youthful passion, or because the women--in spite of their anguish--soon start looking toward the future, the novel has a freshness and conveys a feeling of discovery that enchant the reader.

The narrative is told in the third person, yet the fact that the young protagonist is never given a name suggests that it may be her voice speaking of an experience remembered. Time has not erased even its minutest details. As a matter of fact, the precision and clarity of the narration are enhanced by distance, which helps focus sharply on what is essential. Under its apparent simplicity, Bianchini's writing defines perfectly a moment, a place, and the characters involved. The protagonist is surrounded by a female chorus that provides a wealth of parallel and intersecting stories: past trials, new loves, letters, phone calls, confessions, and secrets fill the lives of the women, who are suspended between a past and future equally rife with dread and hope. Private stories, half-told and half-concealed, mingle with historical events and local gossip. The ranch is a comfortable and homey refuge; its owner, a woman whose past life is also something of a mystery, distributes encouragement and commonsense wisdom.

In the background, as essential to the story as any of the characters, there is the American West. Familiar and forbidding, it opens up in all its immensity before the eyes of the astonished visitor. Paradoxically, the American continent looks very ancient to those who come from the "old" countries: "A world that was more than ancient, prehistoric, with immense elevations, contorted trees, low bushes, and strange, frightening rocks." Against that landscape, seasons and emotions acquire a unique beauty. Nevada speaks of a place and a moment in the life of the United States seen by a keen observer who is also a wonderful storyteller.

Angela M. Jeannet

Franklin & Marshall College
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Author:Jeannet, Angela M.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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