The Education of Malcolm Palmer (Google eBook)
Malcolm Palmer, dean of a provincial college in central Pennsylvania, undergoes an unsentimental education while traveling in Italy. Robbed of his handbag, containing his passport, cash and traveler's checks, credit and other cards, Malcolm finds that he no longer has a sense of himself. The presence of Alicia Hirsch, a former colleague who has moved into his hotel room after he's finished transacting the business for his college that has taken him to Rome, compounds his problems. A further complication is the mysterious murder of an international financier, on whose body Malcolm's passport has been found.
The once-in-a-lifetime adulterous holiday that Malcolm had hoped for turns into a time of self-testing and self-doubt. Finessed by a suave apologist for Mussolini and fascism, forced to confront violence and death, wanting and needing an essential self that is honest, courageous, and capable, Malcolm fails to measure up.
With the arrival in Rome of Malcolm's wife, Teddy, to arrange for the return home of the body of the husband she has mistakenly been informed has been murdered, the narrative moves to its climax. At almost the very minute, on the other side of the track on which Teddy's train rolls in, Malcolm is seeing Alicia off for Florence. Teddy's meeting with her "dead" husband is memorable comic melodrama.
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