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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 08, 1993|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE COURTYARD OF DREAMS by Anna Monardo. (Doubleday: $21.50; 289 pp.) "Better for a woman to be patient than beautiful," one of Giulia di Cuore's many aunts tells her when she is still too young to do anything about it but old enough to squirm. And in a lovely prologue, Monardo shows us what it would have been like, centuries ago, to grow up in Italy with no choice but patience. A lot of embroidery, and then he comes for you. Asks your father for you. But as a first-generation American, growing up with her sweet but tyrannical father after the death of her mother, Giulia must sift through the old-world wisdom of her aunts (called the "Contadina ladies" because they insist on stockpiling cans of tomato sauce) and the bold advice of her American peers to choose her battles with her father. The final showdown takes place when Giulia is 17, spending the summer with her uncles and their families in Calabria. Who can blame her? The turquoise sea, a green-eyed boy named Luca . . . there's no turning back to embroidery.

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