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The Jukebox Queen of Malta


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About the Author

Nicholas M. Rinaldi teaches literature and creative writing at Fairfield University in Connecticut.


Although influenced by Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Rinaldi's World War II novel stands on its own unique merits. Fantastical with a touch of dark humor, it's both a moving love story and a gripping portrait of a tiny island under siege. (LJ 5/1/99) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Joseph Heller author of Catch-22 A beguiling romantic story in an illuminating and surprising setting.
Richard Bernstein The New York Times A funny...romantic, character-rich window on war.
Richard Russo author of Straight Man and Nobody's Fool I hope this year will offer us another novel as smart and hilarious and magical as Nicholas Rinaldi's The Jukebox Queen of Malta, but I'm not holding my breath.
Tom Drury The New York Times Book Review An incendiary-pastoral novel of life during the Axis bombardment of Malta...vividly rendered.

In fluid prose and with subtle psychological insight, Rinaldi (Bridge Fall Down) writes of wartime love as a kind of complex anesthetic, or as a soul-saving form of amnesia during violent times. During the early years of WWII, U.S. Army Corporal Rocco Raven is sent to the small Mediterranean island of Malta on a vague intelligence mission concerning wire taps. Because of its key geographic position between Sicily and Africa, Malta has been subjected to daily Italian and German bombardments, and it seems that the only person keeping his head clear of falling rubble is Roccos commanding officer, shifty Jack Fingerly, who dresses inappropriately in a Florida sports shirt and disappears when the going gets bad. Walking along pitted streets lined by gutted buildings, Rocco meets and immediately falls in love with Melita Azzard, a beautiful, green-eyed Maltese woman who drives a pink Studebaker hearse, delivering her cousin Zammits handmade jukeboxes to the many bars that cater to English and American troops. Rocco learns Maltese history from Nardu Camilleri, whose national pride drives him to vainly shoot at enemy planes with his outdated rifle. As the conflict accelerates, Rocco and Melita occasionally manage to escape, driving through Maltas rocky terrain and swimming naked in the ocean, and Rocco hopes for a future that sanctifies their love. Readers may find echoes of Louis De Bernieress Correllis Mandolin here, in the juxtaposition of local history, island romance and senseless violence, but Rinaldis voice is distinct in its honest portrayal of a peoplelong deprived of food, information and entertainmentstruggling to reconnect to the world. While sometimes the plot momentum slows with long-winded dialogue, this is a compelling tale of lovers straining to hear the music through the din of a war-ravaged planet. (June)

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