Item description for The Mirror of Diana: A Novel of War and Love by A. R. Homer...
The time is 1943, a time of war. The place is the hill-perched town of Nemi, in the Alban Hills south of Rome, overlooking the crater lake where, 2000 years before, the Roman emperor Caligula sailed his gigantic ships to the Temple of Diana. Just a few years before the war, the ancient ships, sunk after Caligula's death, were miraculously recovered from the lake and placed in a lakeside museum. Paolo, the museum curator, now struggles to protect these treasures from Allied bombs and the depredations of the Germans in a world where the struggle for simple survival makes such efforts seem irrelevant. He watches with disquiet as the German occupation brings together Rosanna, his daughter, whose innocence is brutalized by the horrors of the war, and Klaus, a German officer, whose high ideals and love for Rosanna cause him soul-wrenching conflicts of loyalty. Love? Or duty?
The Mirror of Diana tells the poignant story of Klaus and Rosanna's secret love against the backdrop of war-torn Italy and one of the war's great unsolved mysteries: why were the fabulous ships of Caligula reduced to ashes in the midst of war? The answer may have been foretold in the legend sculpted on The Mirror of Diana.
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Reviews - What do customers think about The Mirror of Diana: A Novel of War and Love?
Not close to anything real or even fiction May 23, 2008
I was really very disappointed with this book. I enjoy Alan Furst and Philip Kerr to name a few but this book fell far short. It is more like a beefed up outline for a book. The day to day life during the war in Italy is ok but since I live in Italy the situation the book centers around would be diffficult for anyone especially an Italian to believe.
Disappointing Melodrama Apr 12, 2008
I got "The Mirror of Diana" after reading several of the glowing this site reviews for the novel, but I have to say that I just didn't see the merit which has been accorded this book previously. The idea of setting the book in WWII Italy with a focus on historic Roman artifacts was inspired (in my opinion, at least), but I was expecting a lot more integration of the war period, the artifacts (Caligula's Lake Nemi ships) or even the region of Italy where the story was set into the novel.
The focus of the book is almost entirely on a stereotypical story of star-crossed lovers with dialogue that often reads like the libretto of an opera. There are many proclamations of love, hate, friendship, duty, etc. but they often come across as stilted and self-conscious posing. The villain of the piece--who literally wears black (of the Nazi SS)--is so over the top as to lack much credibility. And that was the overall problem with the book for me, there just isn't much complexity in the plot and the characters here. There is very little challenge to the reader.
Some have suggested that this book would make a good movie. That might have happened in the 1950s or early 1960s when popular film was often one-dimensional, but these days I think it would be more likely to appear as a tragic operetta or anime.
Historical Fiction that Soars Aug 8, 2005
Here, embedded in a well-researched historical mystery, is a story of love and war that really soars.
Among the tragic casualties of World War II were two 2000-year-old ships lavishly built for the emperor Caligula, sunk in Lake Nemi, then raised during Mussolini's prewar reign. The irony of the ships' surviving for two millennia immersed in the lake, only to suffer complete destruction just a few years after they had been raised up, is a fascinating but little-known bit of history woven into this enthralling tale of love between a German officer and an Italian woman in wartime Italy.
Klaus Schmidt, a historian before the war and now a German officer who detests the Nazis, rescues Rosanna Giraldi from rape by German soldiers. Rosanna's father, Paolo, the curator of the museum housing the recently-raised ships, finds he shares a love of antiquities with the German officer and, learning that Klaus has rescued his daughter, forges an uneasy friendship with him, even as he watches with concern as Rosanna and Klaus fall in love. But with Italy in the midst of abandoning its alliance with the Reich, with Mussolini falling from power, with the villagers and Paolo's own wife loathing the Germans, and with Klaus falling afoul of his Nazi commander, Klaus's friendship with Paolo and his love for Rosanna bring down on all their heads a violence that rivals the legendary horrors of Caligula.
This eloquently-written novel is both a poignant love story and a pulse-pounding war tale that transports us to an evocatively-depicted wartime Italy. Even the secondary characters are vibrantly alive: Gianni, the street-smart urchin; Gunther, Klaus's can-do sidekick, and Maria, Rosanna's tough but tender mother. And Dressler, the Nazi commander whose party loyalty and sadistic tendencies are indistinguishable, is horrifying.
The plot that carries these characters is breathtakingly original, full of surprising twists, and with a denouement that will pluck at your heart. I enthusiastically recommend this novel.
Stirring Evocative Story Aug 27, 2004
This is a magnificent tale told in stunning passion, and I agree with the reviewers who believe this could be turned into a beautiful movie. Set against a backdrop of Roman History in World War II, the ships of Caligula and the myths of Diana as well as the haunting characters take center stage, grab your heart and never let go. And the end of the story is handled with a masterful touch of literary suspense, even up to the last line. A.R. Homer is an author whose star is rising and I dearly look forward to his next book.
Other reviewers have explained about the book so eloquently that I cannot add more to their descriptions except to say that I too loved this book and highly recommend it.
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW Aug 19, 2004
TO ALL THE TREASURE LOST IN WAR reads the dedication of The Mirror of Diana, a novel that has as its centerpiece a major, yet little-remembered, archaeological disaster of World War II: the mysterious burning of the monumental ships of the Emperor Caligula as the German army retreated from Rome. But I found in this book much more than fascinating archaeological background. I discovered a novel as touching as it is exciting.
Klaus Schmidt, a crack artillery officer but also a lover of antiquities, visits the ancient ships of Caligula, housed in a museum south of Rome. Paolo, the ship museum's curator, overcomes his dread of his German visitor and discovers a kindred spirit in Klaus, who is bewitched by the ships. The two develop a warm friendship, although Paolo's dread returns as his daughter, Rosanna, and Klaus are inexorably drawn to each other. Klaus and Rosanna's deepening love leads to complications that worsen exponentially as the pages fly by.
Writing in clean and elegant prose, A.R. Homer evokes a vivid image of wartime Italy and draws the reader into the thoughts and feelings of the characters, breathing life into them all. The idealistic Klaus often vacillates and broods while Rosanna, although brave and determined, displays the immaturity of youth. There are also Paolo, with his head-in-the-clouds obsession for the safety of the ships, Maria, his unsentimental and survival-focused wife, Gianni, the street-smart and ever-hungry urchin, wise beyond his years, and Gunther, Klaus's savvy sergeant, who longs to be back on the farm in Bavaria. But Dressler, the SS commander with whom Klaus locks horns, made my stomach lurch every time he appeared on the scene.
This fascinating and well-researched book will appeal to a wide audience. In addition to those interested in World War II and ancient history and legends, The Mirror of Diana is a novel for all who love pulsating historical fiction. The breathtaking plot twists and the relentless suspense will hold the reader in thrall, and the poignant story of the star-crossed lovers will touch the heart of everyone. I give The Mirror of Diana my highest recommendation.