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Mary Melfi’s “Via Roma” Reviewed in The Ottawa Review of Books

We’re delighted to announce that the latest edition of The Ottawa Review of Books features reviews of two Guernica releases, Via Roma by Mary Melfi and The Expo Affair by Geza Tatrallyay!

via roma Caroline Vu begins her review of Via Roma by asking “is it still possible, in this day and age, for respected female writers to portray women as hopelessly dependent on the affection of men?” Vu answers, “yes, if they are gutsy enough to buck trends”.

Vu explains that Melfi’s newest novel “revisits themes found in her earlier works…Love-equals-bondage, sex-equals death”. Vu refers to Melfi’s earlier works, such as A Dialogue with Masks, in which she states “let’s face it: sex and death are married to each other. They have to be…Adam and Eve decided that sex was worth dying for”.

Via Roma tells the story of Sophie Wolfe, who Vu describes as “a young Anglo Montrealer struggling with her insecurities”. As a woman who does not know her father and was raised by an independent and sexually-liberated mother, Sophie develops a “childhood fixation on a 1950’s style family [that] eventually transforms Sophie, a Generation X kid, into a woman of the last century…Subconsciously rejecting her mother’s values, Sophie becomes what feminists loath: a happily dependent woman”. Once Sophie’s husband dies, she transforms “into a morbid, self-flagellating creature obsessed with ghosts and the underworld” – that is, until she meets a new love to become dependent on.

As to whether Via Roma is a feminist novel, Vu explains that the book “transcends such simple discourse”. Instead, Vu explains how the book borrows from Freudian psychoanalytic theories, especially the Electra Complex.

Vu concludes her review by stating that Via Roma “is fun to read. The voice is original, the novel full of witty one-liners and quirky insights into the lives of Italian Canadians…Besides entertaining us with her sardonic humour, Melfi also informs us with her meticulous research on death, religion and the ins and outs of Quebec politics”.

Mary Melfi is the author of over a dozen critically-acclaimed books of poetry, prose, and drama. These works have been translated into many different languages, including her first novel Infertility Rites, which was translated into French and Italian. Her memoir, Italy Revisited: Conversations with my Mother, was also translated into Italian, and a French edition under the title La-bas, en Italie, will soon be available from Les Editions Triptyque. Her works have also inspired William Anselmi’s Mary Melfi, Essays on Her Works, released by Guernica Editions in 2007. Her newest book, Via Roma has just been released by Guernica Editions this fall.

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