Review of The Fortress, by Danielle Trussoni

nikoli

An autobiographical memoir ought to be simplest of genres, the author is also usually the narrator & principal character, the other characters are present in the author’s memory, & the plot seemingly a simple recounting of what happened in real life. But to a literary analyst, memoir is fiendishly complex. In what sense is Danielle Trussoni, a woman who once attended the University of Iowa MFA program identical with the Danielle Trussoni in this story, who lived in a castle in southern France while married to a Bulgarian novelist named Nikoli & who is telling this story? Is the 1st person narrator the same person as the writer who once wrote a novel I confess I never finished called Angelology? The narrator here mentions its publication & her American book tour, but solely for how those affected her marriage, much to my disappointment because I’d love to know where she got the idea & how she discovered the Book of Enoch & the Watchers. Should you want to fine-tune your literary theory, you can also ask about what theorists term “the implicit author”—the sort of person whose presence you feel behind the book you are actually reading. All four of them, the author, the narrator, the principal subject, & the implicit author, have in common the name Danielle Trussoni.

An Amazon review wondered that Nikoli didn’t sue Danielle for slander. Which Nikoli? we wonder. The Bulgarian novelist in real life or the character in Fortress. Can a character in a story book sue the author for an unflattering portrait? I’d love to attend the trial Falstaff v. Shakespeare. There is, however a website maintained by Nikoli the novelist & ex-spouse (tho’ she’s not mentioned) of the author Danielle Trussoni. There’s a picture of him wearing a top hat like the one described in Fortress that made a line from a song by Taylor Swift come immediately to mind: “Run as fast as you can.”

The two principal characters in Fortress are a crazy romantic from Wisconsin who encounters a darkly glamorous sexually magnetic Bulgarian., the Heathcliff figure every crazy romantic is eager to meet. It doesn’t matter that Danielle already had a child. (We discover later that she’s playing faster & looser with her domestic arrangements than she reveals @ 1st.) She gets pregnant & makes the mistake of going to Bulgaria to meet his parents & have the baby. (Her account of a Bulgarian L&D unit is utterly harrowing.) His dealing with the baby’s name on her birth certificate reveals straightway that he is a controlling liar. She makes the bigger mistake of marrying him, which means that under the law after they move to France, half of all their property will be his, even tho’ he contributes absolutely nothing to their finances. When @ last Danielle wises up (we are introduced to a White Knight, a handsome young Frenchman, as the start of the book), he resorts to blackmail, lying, gas-lighting, even parental abduction, & brings his parents from Bulgaria to try to torment Danielle into giving him custody of their daughter. In short, Nikoli fits every stereotype you ever had about Balkan males. Maybe it’s the effect of growing up in places that were once ruled by the Turks. (Nikoli also affects being a magician, a Buddhist mystic, & part vampire, tho’ with that “Oil Can Harry” hat, au fond he’s just the cheap shallow villain in the melodrama, but unfortunately he really does have the deed to the house.

Although Fortress dragged in the middle, I found it quite enchanting, with a heroine we love & suffer with, & a villain whom we want to strangle. The last portion, especially when the White Knight’s mother, the White Queen, comes to Danielle’s aid, had me wanting to stand up & cheer. So despite many flaws, Fortress deserves the whole five stars, even tho’ I’m not quite sure which Danielle Trussoni will accept them. Maybe the author of Angelology, one of the best fantasy novels I never quite got round to finishing.

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