This is the title I have chosen for my first book to read for the Italy in Books Reading Challenge, where over the year, month by month I intend to read a book fiction or non-fiction set in Italy, with a total of twelve in all. They will probably not be the obvious choices that come to mind as because of my love for the country I have already read a considerable number of books set here over the years.
I have never read anything by this author before so I have no comparisons to make with previous novels. All I knew was that Christine Dwyer-Hickey is an award winning Irish novelist. While I found this narrative interesting taking us back and forth between London, Dublin and Italy in the nineteen thirties and mid nineteen nineties it neither excited me nor bored me. In fact leaving me feeling rather indifferent about this well written novel. I am disappointed and feel a little guilty admitting this, but there is no point in pretending otherwise. A decent read that was absorbing but nothing particular really drew me in.
The main setting of the story is fascist era Italy where the female protagonist Bella Stuart takes a position as tutor to Alec the son of the aristocratic Lami family. His mother has little time for him and Alec’s life revolves around Bella and his music teacher Edward King. The reader has already learnt much about the latters past in the opening chapter of the novel, a dark secret he keeps to himself in Italy. When the story moves to the present times it is to meet Anna a young woman of Italian descent and gradually connections with the past are uncovered.
It is a vivid picture of Italy during the rise of fascism that the author gives us with a very atmospheric sense of place. A novel not just about the historical period it is set in but a love story of perception and regret.
I will be interested to see if any other participants in the Italy in Books - Reading Challenge 2011 choose this title and if so what they make of it. My copy is at the moment available to anyone in Europe taking part in the challenge as I am willing to mail it to them. In fact I would like to send this book travelling via Bookcrossing to any number of you that may like to read it.