Claude Wooldridge is an antiques dealer and second hand bookshop owner with an obsession with Byron and an impending midlife crisis. When he finds what may be letters leading him to Byron's memoirs he thinks this may be something that will bring meaning left to his life. His profession means that he is acutely aware that the memoirs (and indeed the letter leading him to them) may be a fake and increasingly he is becoming aware that his whole life may be fake. So he rushes off to Naples and buys the old mansion that Byron is reputed to have lived in, where he can uncover the truth.
The part of the novel set in the UK is entertaining, Wooldridge is a colourful and not entirely likeable character and his dysfunctional family and professional life is described in an amusing and insightful manner. Secrets abound, which are revealed gradually through the narrative. Great use is made of the weather to accent mood (though this is perhaps overdone in one scene, where an argument is counterpointed by an ever increasing thunderstorm that becomes rather melodramatic).
However, once action moves to Naples, the book totally deteriorated for me. Rather than Italy acting as a backdrop for adventure, discovery and closure it is a setting for depressing introspection and self involved misery.
The Luxury of Exile by Louis Buss published by Random House
for the Italy in Books reading challenge