This charming and refreshingly modest debut hinges on a romantic triangle consisting of a blind contessa, her aristocratic husband, and an eccentric inventor. As Carolina Fantoni and Pietro prepare for their wedding in early 19th-century Italy, she tells her handsome, well-born fiancé that she is going blind. Like her family, he doesn't take her seriously, and only Turri, Carolina's friend and married neighbor, believes her. While Pietro engages in less than lofty pursuits, Turri and Carolina continue to meet on Carolina's father's property, and Carolina's creeping blindness inspires Turri to invent a machine she can use to write messages. His invention—a typewriter—sparks an affair that could have far-reaching consequences for them both. Wallace has a smooth style and a sure hand in combining near tragedy with whimsy, whether she's detailing Carolina and Pietro's social circle, the state of scientific knowledge, or the progression of Carolina's blindness. Secondary characters, including Carolina's not-so loyal servant girl, Liza, are sketched with hints of a darker, deeper psychology. Despite its relative brevity, this is a work of surprising insight, humor, and heart.(July)
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