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Set in Florence's Anglo-American colony in the late 19th century, this is a romantic story of a middle-aged man, returning to the scene of his first but disappointed love twenty years earlier. The doings of Americans abroad were staples of the fictions of Henry James and Edith Wharton, but Howells’s view is rather different. As John Updike has said of it, “the felicity of the writing makes us pause in admiration….A midlife crisis has rarely been sketched in fiction with better humor, with gentler comedy and more gracious acceptance of life’s irrevocability.” ( Nicholas Clifford)