Awards for Seeking Alice

2017 IASA Book Award

The Italian American Studies Association committee is pleased to present the 2017 Book Award to Camilla Trinchieri for Seeking Alice (Excelsior Editions, State University of New York Press 2016).

The committee found this novel to be a wonderful work of large scope, meaningful detail, and evocative emotion. A rich saga, Seeking Alice tells a story of moral complexity during a momentous time in US / Italy relations. It describes Rome with a painterly precision. It is a story of philosophical weight and electric prose.

Dennis Barone, University of Saint Joseph

Joanna Clapps Herman, Manhattanville College

Fred Misurella, East Stroudsburg University

Seeking Alice-Shows What Good Fiction Can Do

Seeking Alice
A novel by Camilla Trinchieri
(SUNY Press, Excelsior editions), 224 pp., $19.95.

Key words in the title of this absorbing narrative about the devastations of war on love are “a novel,” because the dedication, “In Memoriam,” alludes to what the story itself seems to evoke, a sense that this moving fictional narrative has a strong basis in reality. If so, it nonetheless shows what good fiction can often do that memoirs and autobiographies cannot:  rise above historical facts to enunciate a theme that extends beyond the particular time and place, here central Europe in the early forties. The book’s epigraph would suggest as much. It’s from William Faulkner – “Memory believes before knowing remembers,”  a  gnomic statement that might mean that the heart knows instinctively what  evidence only later affirms, the point being, as it is for the central character in Seeking Alice, that deep and abiding bonds never die and may in fact contradict reports of the death of a loved one.

Susie, the oldest of Alice’s three children, opens the novel with a first-person narration set in Cambridge, MA. It’s 1956. She’s happily married and is expecting her first child, but she’s forever haunted by nightmares and faint memories of  being in Prague, then Italy, with her beloved mother, Alice, or Alinka as she was  called by her husband and friends.  “Mama has come back into my head. I need her, want her here to guide me.” But as far as Susie  knows and as her younger brother insists, their mother is dead, a victim of the war, shot on Christmas Eve as she pushed Susie and her baby  sister Claire through a wire fence in Nazi-infested Italy to safety in Switzerland in 1943. Before that, though, as Susie remembers, Alice was dying in another way, mentally, emotionally, incarcerated in an institution in Rome and given shock therapy. Susie’s brother, Andy, a talented frail musician, had been spirited away to safety in Spain  by their father. Papa was an Italian diplomat, the Vice Consul, during the Fascist and Nazi regimes.

Switch to a first-person narration by Mama, October 1941. Alice is pregnant (with Claire) and is still “awash in peace, happiness,” but as much as Alice adores her handsome husband Marco, she despises the Nazis and the Fascists, particularly when, like Reinhard Heydrich, they come visiting their home in Prague.  It’s still early in war, but, as Alice says, “Before Prague I didn’t know `Jew’ in any language.”  Her husband makes apologies for his position and wants her to conform. He’s anxious about protecting them, especially after America enters the war. This political difference infects their relationship, despite fervent sexual passion between them and a genuine shared love of their children. But as events grow more dire, with bombings and hardships, Alice becomes unhinged and wants out, out of Prague, Rome, Europe. They lived for a while in the States (in Newport). She wants to get back. Marco says he cannot leave his post and protect them. He’s often away anyway, and at least on one occasion, is discovered by Alice to have been having an affair. She may be a bit willing to forgive him for that but not for the wider deception: “He has deceived me, deceived his children, and by wearing a Fascist uniform only for personal convenience, he has ended up deceiving even those faceless men who died in Russia and Africa.” She feels herself becoming a different person.” Wartime is woman’s time. Blame it on the war.” At one point she makes Susie write 100 times: “I am an American.”

It was a clever move, stylistically divide the narrative into alternating streams of consciousness of mother and child, both seeing similar events with some differences though the basic facts remain. The war is finally over and Susie is in Cambridge, awaiting the birth of her child. But what happened to Alice? Papa never talked about her and the children have only their dreams. Andy is convinced Alice is dead, and yet finds slips of paper after Papa dies, that show him paying sums of money to nuns in Rome. Intuitively, without reason or cause, Susie determines to seek Alice, to find out what happened after that Christmas Eve when she and Claire were pushed into Switzerland. Suspense builds, and Trinchieri drives toward her conclusion with skill and heart.#

Education Update – May 2016


Gripping Story of Love and Loss – Midwest Book Review

Midwest Book Review“Seeking Alice” is a gripping story of love and loss that centers on Marco, an Italian diplomat; Alice, his American wife; and their young children. Stationed in Prague during World War II, Marco and Alice become enemies when the United States enters the war, forcing Alice and the children to move from Prague to Rome and finally to Cernobbio in a desperate attempt to flee to Switzerland. Through alternating passages narrated by Alice and daughter Susie, readers shuttle back and forth between war-torn Europe and 1950s Massachusetts to search for answers and unravel the mystery about what really happened to Alice during the war. “Seeking Alice” by Camilla Trinchieri is a deftly crafted and compelling story of the disintegration of an American and Italian family caught in Europe during World War II. It is one of those all-too-rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for community, college, and university library Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “Seeking Alice” is also available in a Kindle format

Midwest Book Review – October 2016

Foreword Reviews – “Seeking Alice”

Forward Reviews

“This novel blends a deeply emotional story with an environment that is captivating in its danger and complexity.”

In Camilla Trinchieri’s Seeking Alice, World War II is a force that makes it difficult for families to stay together. With a careful hand, Trinchieri paints a realistic picture of how love, betrayal, loss, and guilt shape one family in a period when the parameters of daily life shifted constantly.

Seeking Alice CoverAlice and Marco are living in Prague with their three children when WWII breaks out. As an Italian diplomat, Marco must toe the Fascist Party line in order to protect his family, but his American wife, Alice, struggles to hide her
disgust for the Nazi leaders who come to dinner. As the war continues, the family moves from Prague to Rome, with members separating off one by one, until Alice makes a desperate decision to cross the border into Switzerland with her two daughters. Fifteen years after the war, on the verge of becoming a mother herself, Susie feels compelled to find out what really happened to her mother that pivotal night.

Told through the alternating viewpoints of Alice in 1941 and her daughter, Susie, in 1956, the novel focuses on the complicated roles of women, magnifying those roles with the caustic effects of war. “Wartime is woman’s time,” says Alice’s friend, Ersilia. In many ways she is right. Women must largely go it alone, finding freedoms they hadn’t had before and dealing with added burdens, too. Trinchieri deftly shows that balancing roles is difficult, as events affect Alice as a wife and conflict with her needs as an individual, resulting in unintended consequences for her children. Such complications are related evenly with the story showcasing the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking without passing narrative judgment. The characters do enough judging themselves.

This novel blends a deeply emotional story with an environment that is captivating in its danger and complexity. The pace builds slowly over time, until Alice and her daughters’ pulse-quickening attempt to escape over the border into Switzerland. Seeking Alice is a fully engaging story that doesn’t let go until the final page.


Seeking Alice
Camilla Trinchieri
SUNY Press (Jun 1, 2016)
Softcover $19.95 (230pp)

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author provided free copies of his/her book to have his/her book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love and make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

“Tight Standalone from Crespi”… “will keep cozy fans turning the pages”

BreakfastClubMurderFrontPublisher’s Weekly Review December 13, 2013

The Breakfast Club Murder by Camilla T. Crespi. Five Star Publishing, $25.95 (326p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2805-9

In this tight standalone from Crespi (The Trouble with a Hot Summer), the discovery of newlywed Valerie Fenwick’s body in the trunk of husband Rob Staunton’s BMW causes several citizens of Hawthorne Park, Conn., to point fingers. For the moment, Rob and his ex-wife, Lori Corvino Staunton, who assaulted Valerie two days earlier, are both on the suspects list. Lori meets with friends Beth, Margot, and Janet at the town’s old Greek coffee shop, Callie’s Place, where she enlists their support in an effort to identify the real killer. Apparently, more than one person close to Lori, including Janet’s husband, may have had good reason see Rob take the fall. Meanwhile, Lori stays focused on priorities such as protecting her 13-year-old daughter, reviving her catering business, cultivating a new love interest, and, of course, enjoying Callie’s hot apple pie. Some unexpected surprises will keep cozy fans turning the pages. (Feb.) Reviewed on 12/13/2013