After I finished The Secret of Santa Vittoria, I couldn’t help thinking that I must have seen the film version and not remembered it.
Robert Crichton’s novel, however, is not soon forgotten.
The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Robert Crichton
Simon and Schuster, 1966, 447 pp. 1966 bestseller #3. My grade: B+.
Santa Vittoria has only one asset: its wine.
Bombolini, the clownish wine merchant and student of Machiavelli, steps up to save the day.
Bombolini becomes Mayor by giving away free wine.
But his real genius is in organizing the entire town to hide a million bottles of wine within an arm’s length of the Germans.
Determined to prove he and his seven German soldiers can subdue an entire town without bloodshed, Captain von Prum swallows Bombolini’s bait every time.
Though a thousand people know the secret, no one tells, not even under torture by the SS.
The result is a story that swings like a bloody pendulum from farce to horror.
The funny parts are almost vaudevillian.
The horrifying parts are nauseating.
And all of The Secret of Santa Vittoria is so ridiculously, stupidly human that the novel seems perfectly plausible.
© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni