As its title suggests, The Takeover is a novel about takeovers: the takeover of Italian property by the Americans, Maggie, Michael, and Mary; Huber Mallindaine’s occupation of Maggie’s villa; Coco de Renault’s swindling of Maggie’s fortune; and Lauro’s acquisition of her property.
As the novel begins, Maggie is trying to evict Hubert Mallindaine, her one-time favorite, from her villa at Nemi. Maggie owns three villas at Nemi—the second occupied by her son, Michael, and his wife, Mary, and the third rented to Dr. Emilio Bernardini and his children, Pietro and Letizia. Mary, wanting to make a “success” of her marriage, is sympathetic to her mother in-law’s point of view, while the Bernardinis refuse to help oust Hubert, an Englishman who claims to be a direct descendant of the goddess Diana of Nemi.
Both “high priest” and “pure fake,” Hubert mythologizes his own ancestry while having Maggie’s furniture and paintings forged, selling the originals and accumulating a healthy bank account in Switzerland. A manipulative and charismatic man, Hubert inspires in his secretary, Pauline Thin, a loyalty that allows her not only to work for him without wages but also to serve as priestess in his cult, the Friends of Diana.
The second half of the novel is shaped by a series of reversals. Pauline Thin denounces Hubert as a fraud; Maggie hires Lauro (a self-serving houseboy who has slept with Maggie, Mary, and Berto, Maggie’s husband) to kidnap Coco de Renault, Maggie’s capitalistic business manager who has disappeared with her fortune; Maggie’s lawyer helps Hubert remove and sell the furnishings of her house; and Hubert takes a job with the Jesuits.
At the end of the novel, Maggie and Hubert meet accidentally at the Devil’s Grottoes, the place where Diana’s temple was located, and reveal that they have understood each other completely. Maggie knows that Hubert has become rich selling her possessions, and Hubert knows that Maggie has regained her fortune by collecting a ransom for the safe return of Coco de Renault.