The overwhelming sense of a man in love with his adopted city is a constant theme in Dan Hofstadter's fourth novel, Falling Palace A Romance of Naples.

The depth in description of scenes, scenarios and characters is evocative and affectionate as a result, although as in all good stories, it is usually the main players within the text who keep the reader interested.

In the form of Benedetta, we meet a mysterious Neapolitan woman who enchants the narrator in a similar vein to his adopted city.

Hofstadter weaves the tale of this elusive romance while unravelling Naples for us, guiding us through its dilapidated architectural beauty and theatre of everyday life, conveying its rich blend of poverty and splendour.

Other people are brought to life, characters whose gestures and characteristics are unique to the area; mysterious landladies, wedding photographers and bakers with a penchant for the stock exchange; there is also Benedetta's agoraphobic adopted aunt, who meddles from a distance.

This book is like a film that tries to be too clever.

But because Hofstadter has not aimed for a conventional beginning, middle and end, the emphasis is on subtlety and a languid pace, which some will find to their taste.

James Cleary