The Belvederes of Brooklyn: A Family's Struggle to Conquer the 1930s
This novel explores the interactions of rich and poor multi-ethnic families in a tight-knit neighborhood of 1930s Brooklyn. It is dominated by the affair of a beautiful, lustful widow and a Roman, Antinous-like godly boy that inevitably leads to tragedy. Comingled in this web of eroticism are other forbidden desires that dare not surface, but do so with the same inexorable fatal finale. More
THE BELVEDERES OF BROOKLYN is David Arturi's tribute to the Brooklyn of his youth in the Depression-era 1930s. It is part memoir, part fiction, but with few exceptions, he declines to tell us which is which. Though there's a huge cast of characters representing a cross section of Brooklynites, two families dominate--the wealthy Vandermeers and the poor, blighted Belvederes.
Early in the novel hedonistic widow Maureen Vandermeer, who preys on young boys her children's ages, has fixated on the younger Belvedere son, Adrian, who bears a striking resemblance to the Roman Antinous, who was deified in his lifetime for his celebrated, breathtaking beauty.
Interestingly, the history of the Belvedere family mirrors Arturi's own as he tells us in "About the Author." Marius Belvedere leaves Italy for America hoping to find a better life. But his wife Anna develops an inoperable brain tumor for which medical science at the time offers little treatment.
At her deathbed, she asks her older son, Rick, to get the family out of the city to a place of fresh air--perhaps the mountains. He is thwarted in his mission, however, when Marius loses his job and is forced to put the four children--Paula, Rick, Adrian, and Linda--in Catholic orphanages. Blaming America for his wife's death, he returns to Italy.
Six years later, Marius returns to America to claim his abandoned children. He has recently married Claudia, an Italian-American New Yorker. By then, they feel little loyalty toward him and plot their escapes from Brooklyn.
Those familiar with Brooklyn should delight in the many place names, yesteryear's close-knit neighborhoods of candy stores and parks, nostalgic memorabilia, side trips in history, and well-placed old photographs corresponding to the content.