The Detour, Andromeda’s new novel, available in paperback from Soho Press February 2013.
Set in 1938 Italy and Munich, The Detour enlarges upon themes introduced in Andromeda’s debut novel, including questions about the role of art – and the promise of love – in wartime.
Young art curator Ernst Vogler travels to Italy on what is supposed to be a brief assignment: escorting the famous Discus Thrower statue to Munich, where it has been purchased, controversially, by the German government. But from the first morning, when Vogler arrives at the museum too late to write his initial report, to a change in plans that requires transporting the ancient statue by road instead of by train, everything goes wrong. Traveling for five days across Italy, Vogler will try to fulfill his mission, confront demons in his own past, and discover – perhaps too late – lessons in friendship and passion. Set in 1938 and inspired by a historical event, the controversial sale of a real statue to Nazi Germany, one of the first steps in what became a seven-year looting campaign of the greatest art objects of Europe, The Detour is a novel about classical art and pre-World War II politics. It is also an exploration of the boundaries between loyalty and love, rigidity and spontaneity, stone and life.
Reviews for The Detour
“The Detour is a gem, combining a fascinating storyline about art acquisition in Hitler’s Germany, an entrancing setting darkened by impending war, rich symbolism and engaging characters. Romano-Lax possesses a gift for narrative texture that can incorporate and seamlessly join a moving story with character growth and an insightful, tangible realism.” - David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News
“Set against the background of impending war and Nazi reprisals, Romano-Lax’s delicately atmospheric journey of discovery is, of course, a metaphor for life, with all its unaccountable and uncontrollable diversions and demands. A gently haunting work of subtle and surprising wisdom. ” - Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Romano-Lax is singularly gifted: she creates full-fledged, engaging characters and writes compelling narrative. Some of her descriptive passages take your breath away. The author’s The Spanish Bow was a hit. This novel will make a splash, too, for the same reasons.” – David Keymer, Library Journal
“Ernst’s story is an engrossing one. It also serves as a means by which the author demonstrates the insidious role of Nazi culture in ordinary lives… A very satisfying novel.” – The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Nicely paced, brisk with dialog, and lyric at the right moment, this would be great for book clubs.” – Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
“Romano-Lax has taken a snippet from history, Hitler’s controversial pre-war acquisition of The Discus Thrower, and cast it in a classic road trip story, where the journey is more about self-discovery than maps and routes. Vogler is a beautifully layered character – misunderstood, doubting, secretive, precise – rivaled only by the colorful Digiloramo twins, who keep a thread of dark humor running throughout. Romano-Lax paints a glorious landscape of northern Italy, with sunsets and winding vineyards that pull the reader in as much as the characters. Thoroughly recommended.” – Jessica Brockmole, Historical Novels Review
“Romano-Lax creates an atmosphere of slow-building suspense, and her skill as a writer is irrefutable. Part romance and part mystery, this piece of historical fiction sheds light on an infrequently explored aspect of the Third Reich.” – Hilary Daninhirsch, Jewish Book Council
“The ethical issues of the book are thought provoking, contrasting the artistic perfection of classical sculpture with basic human values. Ultimately, the sculpture itself provides the answer. Just as the discus thrower leans to balance the weight of the outstretched arm and the heavy disc, Ernst must learn to balance his love for classical art with personal morality; to reach for love, even while acknowledging it is more than any of us deserve.” — Foreword
“A romantic and at times poetic trip through Italy’s countryside…. It is a brilliant adventure into differing German and Italian cultures and stances, a philosophical excursion into art and the meaning of art, and a sweet, romantic love story contained within a suspenseful and deadly race to make (or to prevent) the timely delivery of the statue to Germany…. Romano-Lax’s fresh and vivid narrative and her evocative and bright writing style allow her to oscillate easily between the story’s past and present. The mysterious murder plot, the race to get the Discus Thrower across the border, and Vogler’s puzzling transformation make her novel a page-turner. And if that isn’t enough, the sweet and romantic love story keeps readers engaged…. The novel is full of humor, sadness, and occasionally cheerful absurdity, and Romano-Lax provides us with fictional writing in its most elegant form.” - Pasatiempo
“VERDICT: Elegant, Haunting, Compelling.” - Courier Mail, Brisbane
“With great care and skill, Romano-Lax teases out the human complexities, exploring the differing values, desires and fears of the various characters while creating, through Vogler’s cautious and evasive voice, an atmosphere of chilling menace and threat.” – Sydney Morning Herald
“A skillful blend of art history and contrasting personalities. A very rewarding read.” – Launceton Examiner, Tasmania
“A marvelous adventure across landscapes both inner and outer, The Detour is a moving study in art and memory, history and geography, courage and compassion and every kind of love. Beautifully executed, deeply felt, and crammed with what feels for all the world like reality itself, it’s a rare and valuable book indeed.” – Jon Clinch, author of Finn and Kings of the Earth
“As Nazi Germany passes from living memory, novels that allow the reader to travel its ethical landscape are increasingly important. Andromeda Romano-Lax has a fine feel for moments of clarity that are recognized only in hindsight, when chance and personal defects — moral and physical — combine to produce heroism, or mediocrity, or cowardice. A convincing novel, beautifully written.” – Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow and Doc.
“A poignant and important historical drama, as well as part road trip and compelling adventure, The Detour defies our expectations on every page. Andromeda Romano Lax is a powerful and moving storyteller.” – Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country and Something Red.
“Elegant and unexpected… An evocative portrait of one man’s passage into maturity and the resiliency of the human spirit even in the midst of the unimaginable.” – C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
“The Detour is a suspenseful tale of artistic ideals, culture and power, complex family bonds, and redemptive love, fashioned into one of the most finely crafted narratives I’ve ever read. It’s certain to earn Andromeda Romano-Lax a new level of readership. Vivid and heartbreaking, set during a shameful time in world history, Romano-Lax celebrates the resilience of the human condition and its ability to heal against all odds.” – Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Solomon’s Oak
“As Ernst Vogler travels across Italy to bring a famous marble sculpture home to Hitler, you will ride along with him through small villages and fields of sunflowers, through violence and love, through history in the making. And when you arrive at the end, you — like Ernst — will have been changed by the journey.” – Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child
“…both a thriller and a poetic journey… Andromeda Romano-Lax is a unique and wonderfully gifted writer.” – Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude & Camille
“The Detour is a wonderfully evocative and lyrical novel – a coming of age story woven into an adventure of art-smuggling under the Nazis. Romano-Lax brilliantly depicts a triumph over the seductive dangers of passivity when faced by love, art and the moral choices of life. A gemstone of a book!” – Simon Goldhill, author of Love, Sex and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives