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Toscanelli's Ray

Written by an accomplished American writer who has lived in Italy for several decades, this debut novel addresses issues of expatriation and immigration, prostitution and exploitation, from the Third World to the First, set within the microcosm of late-20th century Florence, that city which is both symbolically and literally the jewel of the Italian Renaissance. It is a novel where the common humanity of the characters is found in new and radically different circumstances, and where all transpires within the passage of a tiny sliver of time, 15 hours.

This is not the expatriate Florence of Henry James, Edith Wharton or William Dean Howells, rather it is that literary topos, tradition and city turned inside out, upside down, in this ground breaking novel where the sun and heavens are also part of the action, as is the underground.


"Toscanelli's Ray is a brave and wonderfully ambitious book, a meditation on memory, identity and history. It is both a love song to the city of Florence, its ancient beauty and tangled history, and a cleared-eyed examination of the cracks and fissures that the new millennium has thrust upon it. In the course of a single day, Wilde-Menozzi's remarkable characters (including a long-dead Etruscan woman) circle, engage, damage and heal each other in ways that never cease to surprise. This is a novel of big ideas, one that raises provocative questions about immigration, difference and culture---even our notion of time itself, and simultaneously it is a novel full of the stuff of life---passion, guilt, betrayal, politics, and marriage. A stunning accomplishment, and Wilde-Menozzi's generous heart and lucid intelligence illuminate each page."

---Kathleen Cambor, The Book of Mercy

"Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's stunning novel digs deep to unearth the new Italian mosaic: the Americans and Florentines are still here, alongside the Etruscans, but so are the Nigerians, and the Eastern Europeans. Can Florence rise again to spark a new renaissance? Her intricately woven narratives, tough and elegant, illuminate the afterlife of the humanist dream as only the best fiction can."

---Askold Melnyczuk, The House of Flowers

"Toscanelli's Ray is an epic tale set in Florence with its ancient glory, its new graffiti, its bourgeoise, expatriates and illegal immigrants. Through rich mosaic like fragments we glimpse the utter strangeness of our own live in the twenty-first century. Voices from the global south, lives lived at the edge, in penury, without papers force a new reckoning of what Europe might be. Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's language is iridescent, her grasp of the complexity of human time so sure, her sense of intimacy unerring."

---Meena Alexander, Fault Lines

"Modern fiction often adopts Dante's populous weaving of human destinies: Melville's whaler deck, or Woolf's dining table in Mrs Dalloway. Happily this novel renews the contract. Farina, the Nigerian child at its focus, is also the flour whose name crosses from Latin into Italian and English. Of course she comes to matter intensely, but do does the annual solar event in the Duomo which makes this writer's global Florence into our Chichen Itza, Chaco Canyon, or Montsegur: a shrine to alignments amid spinning flow, at one moment and one angle visible. 'The solution, the song, the prayer was the child. Farina. The light that needed to be extended.'"

---John Peck, Contradance