William Riviere's novel is a tale of survival in Italy under a fascist regime following the civil unrest of the Second World War. Through Kate Caterina, the eponymous heroine, Riviere tries to paint the painful and confusing images of war, made all the more blurred by her conflicting loyalties--a brother fighting for the Allies, a brother-in-law as a member of the Axis powers' army and a husband imprisoned for anti-fascist political sympathies. However, the story feels slight and disappointing, and it is not until the penultimate chapter that genuine emotion breaks through and some of the characters come briefly alive.

The casual narrative style that permeates the book, which concentrates on the thoughts of Caterina and her Italian in-laws, suggests that Caterina's experience of war is quite slight and selfish. Her confused and histrionic ramblings take centre stage, while her efforts to help prisoners of war and Italian runaways is set in the outer wings of the text. Caterina's thoughts and speeches are often left unfinished, so that the reader is left guessing as to what she really wants to say. From descriptions of Caterina as "muddle-headed" and with "the harbour of her brainpan ... connected to all the waters of the world...", it seems that this ambiguity is intentional. But it is ultimately frustrating and dissatisfying. Caterina is a character who never takes solid form, becoming a garbled stereotype of "everywoman", with hysterical desires and fears.

As an imagined "vox pop" on the fears of the liberal intelligentsia in Italy during the Second World War (and sometimes of the fascist gentry and the ordinary working class), Kate Caterina is worthwhile. Riviere attempts to use his historical omniscience to give the story some sort of fateful horror, while also trying to get into the heads of his characters as if in the 1940s, but he does not offer enough in the way of moving characterisation and a sympathetic plot to make a memorable story. --Olivia Dickinson



Used availability for William Riviere's Kate Caterina

Hardback Editions

February 2002 : USA Hardback
thumb

Title: Kate Caterina: A Novel
Author(s): William Riviere
ISBN: 0-87113-839-5 / 978-0-87113-839-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


February 2001 : UK Hardback
thumb

Title: Kate Caterina
Author(s): William Riviere
ISBN: 0-340-77038-4 / 978-0-340-77038-2 (UK edition)
Publisher: Sceptre
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

February 2003 : USA Paperback
thumb

Title: Kate Caterina: A Novel
Author(s): William Riviere
ISBN: 0-8021-3973-6 / 978-0-8021-3973-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Grove Press
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


1794 : UK Paperback
thumb

Title: Kate Caterina
Author(s): William Riviere
ISBN: 0-340-77039-2 / 978-0-340-77039-9 (UK edition)
Publisher: Sceptre
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA