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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
Thomas Bauer’s The Assassin is set in a small isolated village at the time when Napoleon began his invasion of the various small Italian states. Six young men who are all friends, all unmarried, all living at home and with few marriage prospects due to their pranks, heavy drinking, and dismal prospects, are the targets of a revolutionary who is seeking conscripts for his cause; to keep the French on their own side of the border. Simone strives for a day when Italy is one great country again united in the pride of her glorious history. Only Umberto, the baker’s son, has ever traveled beyond the confines of the village and only with his father to collect supplies. The other five in the group can neither read nor write and have no idea of the outside world. They have never heard of Cicero, Leonardo de Vinci, Caesar, or any of the other great historical figures. Neither do they understand politics, philosophy, nor ideological concepts. They are simple, rural folk accepting what their elders and the parish priest have drummed into their unwilling heads. Their destiny is to take over the family business, marry, have children, and eventually lie in the local cemetery.
As I read The Assassin by Thomas Bauer, I laughed and I cried. To read of the innocence and indeed stupidity and lack of ambition of a group of early twenty-year-olds, one wonders if there are any more villages today so apart from the world. I loved this book; it flows beautifully. I turned the pages looking for the assassin and, yes, he was there. I marveled at the speeches from Simone who frantically tried to capture the interest and enthusiasm of a group of village idiots. Did he realize he was wasting his time, that such personalities had no imagination or ambition to change their lives? Maybe Umberto was the one exception, but his dreams of becoming rich and bedding the most beautiful women in the nearby town of Novara had no practical plans and less than zero chance of becoming reality. I wondered at their innocence, their guile in the excellent characterization of each of the young men. They were both innocent and cruel, feckless and hard-drinking and not altogether lovable. I felt for the girls they lusted after and the ones they despised for their large size. The village had all the stereotypes -- a witch, a bad-tempered priest, the hard-working artisans despairing of their wayward offspring, the local girl so free with her favors, the mayor who held his position because he was the richest, and all of them innocent enough to be duped by the annual traveling players selling their bottles of snake oil. I really enjoyed the author’s style of writing, tongue in cheek, mocking yet with a deeper, almost sinister undertone that made me think. Highly recommended.