Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel

Written by James Markert
Review by John La Bonne

Memories and the burden of remembering propel the narrative of Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel by James Markert. While its characters wrestle with the present, the novel suggests the events of the past are more determinative of our future than we like to admit. Through meticulously plotted Italianate details about the Renaissance and the evocation of mythological characters such as Apollo and Zeus, Markert keeps the novel moving at an engagingly brisk clip.

Vitto Gandy is a WWII veteran troubled by what he’s experienced in war. He was with the Allied troops that liberated Bergen-Belsen, and the horrors he witnessed stay with him “because they’d been so vividly etched.” He is pursued by phantoms and demons that his loving wife and son cannot see, and they hardly recognize the troubled man who’s returned to them. But it is Vitto’s relationship with his artist father Robert, now suffering from Alzheimer’s, which best illustrates the conflict between past and present. When Robert runs away in a demented state, he returns to the Tuscany Hotel, the artist’s retreat that he once ran with his wife Magdalena. The hotel’s main attraction is a fountain that spurts water that restores memory for the seniors who flock to it. Vitto’s need to get over his shell shock—what we now call PTSD—will force him to revisit the hotel’s history as well as investigate his mother’s mysterious death.

While we occasionally hear the novel’s gears meshing when Vitto passes on to his son stories of mythological characters and titans, the myths also remind us that storytelling has great value, that it is a way of explaining events in our lives that we do not understand, and that only by reconciling the past can we fully know ourselves.