Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Sambuco. Fictional village on Italy’s west-central coast, not far from Salerno—a six-hour drive south from Rome and one hour from Naples. It sits atop imposing cliffs and looks downward into deep gorges, one of which Cass Kinsolving nearly falls into and another in which American millionaire Mason Flagg’s body is eventually found.

Built in the ninth century, Sambuco enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the thirteenth century. In World War II, it escaped destruction because of its physical isolation. However, beneath Sambuco’s facade of longevity and bucolic peacefulness lies a village being gradually demoralized by postwar poverty and despair. Mason Flagg’s arrival and subsequent “Americanization” of his Sambuco experience, despite his expatriate posings, set events in motion. Sambuco’s remoteness, its geographical aloofness toward the rest of Italy, and the village’s uninvolvement in the war’s violence and destruction all stand in ironic contrast to the violence that occurs in the novel.

*New York City

*New York City. Before the departure of the novel’s narrator, Peter Leverett, for Europe, he and Mason Flagg reconnect in a Greenwich Village bar. Mason introduces Peter to his version of New York City—a new and eye-opening world of sex, excess, self-indulgence, and alcohol. At first, Peter marvels at both Mason’s and the city’s fearsome duality: gentleman by day, nihilist...

(The entire section is 526 words.)