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By David Brooks

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A novel brimming with mystery, confessions, food and philosophy.

Two strangers meet in a restaurant in a piazza in the Italian city of Trieste. Stephen, an Australian engineer living in Paris, and Irena, an Italian translator, share a meal and exchange stories in an atmosphere of geniality and refinement.

As the story gradually unfolds in conversation, the reader is treated to Brooks' effortless reflections on culture, language, history, art, love and desire, and all of the thoughts and sensations that strike an Australian in Europe. The play of culture, philosophy and food is reminiscent of John Lanchester's brilliant The Debt to Pleasure. The chapter titles, Antipasti, followed by Primi Piatti, and Insalata etc., add to the atmosphere of delightful indulgence.

Together, Brooks' whimsy, the romantic exotica of the Italian setting and the mysterious plot make for a wonderfully entertaining read that effortlessly balances substance with style.

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