Merope says “Italians are just intensified versions of men from anywhere.” Merope is the Monserrat-American in “Full Moon over Milan” who also gripes about Ass Class: “The real mystery, the riddle of the ages, is why we go to buttock class and put ourselves through severe pain for their benefit…” In “The Birthday Present,” men “have indulged in American wives as they have in German cars.” In the title story, Lee announces that despite so many interesting women “there is no such thing as an interesting man.”
Lee sets a pretty table: she writes well, dotes on detail, pokes fun at cliché, and tends cattily to her expat women. But her men are cartoons, useless foils for female dissent. The center does not hold. Beautiful writing; partial vision.