"The Jukebox Queen of Malta" is an exquisite and enchanting novel of love and war set on an island perilously balanced between what is real and what is not.
It's 1942 and Rocco Raven, an intrepid auto mechanic turned corporal from Brooklyn, has arrived in Malta, a Mediterranean island of Neolithic caves, Copper Age temples, and fortresses. The island is under siege, full of smoke and rubble, caught in the magnesium glare of German and Italian bombs.
But nothing is as it seems on Malta. Rocco's living quarters are a brothel; his commanding officer has a genius for turning the war's misfortunes into personal profit; and the Maltese people, astonishingly, testify to the resiliency of the human spirit. When Rocco meets the beautiful and ethereal Melita, who delivers the jukeboxes her cousin builds out of shattered debris, they are drawn to each other by an immediate passion. And, it is their full-blown affair that at once liberates and imprisons Rocco on the island.
In this mesmerizing novel, music and bombs, war and romance, the jukebox and the gun exist in arresting counterpoint in a story that is a profound and deeply moving exploration of the redemptive powers of love.
Richard Russo author of Straight Man and Nobody's Fool I hope this year will offer us another novel as smart and hilarious and magical as Nicholas Rinaldi's The Jukebox Queen of Malta, but I'm not holding my breath. Joseph Heller author of Catch-22 A beguiling romantic story in an illuminating and surprising setting. Tom Drury The New York Times Book Review An incendiary-pastoral novel of life during the Axis bombardment of Malta...vividly rendered. Richard Bernstein The New York Times A funny...romantic, character-rich window on war.