For much of the way, Siracusa is a sophisticated, elegantly written, delightfully cynical look at four middle-aged Americans, not unlike people most of us know, as they struggle to make sense of their lives. Then, abruptly, the story darkens. All readers may not share my admiration for its shocking conclusion, but it’s that sudden glimpse of tragedy, even of evil, that gives Ephron’s novel the feel of a classic.
As the four adults offer competing accounts of their manipulations, flirtations, delusions and deceptions, the women emerge as far more interesting than the men ... Abnormal psychology may not reveal Ephron, a seasoned novelist, screenwriter, essayist and humorist, at her merciless best, but she excels at characters’ unintended comedy, their emotional warfare and witty observations of travel and consumption.
In its preoccupation with unreliable narration and marital betrayal, Siracusa evokes not only Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, but also Ford Madox Ford’s 1915 modernist masterpiece The Good Soldier and Showtime’s ongoing dramatic series The Affair. There’s even an echo of Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel, Atonement about passion, guilt and how writers distort lives for literary ends ... As much as it is a marital dirge, Siracusa is also a meditation on writing – specifically, on the difficulties of embodying life in fiction ... In the end, Siracusa, like life, is a tad disappointing, its culminating disaster coming as something of an anticlimax.