Last Train From Liguria by Christine Dwyer Hickey
|Last Train From Liguria by Christine Dwyer Hickey|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: This novel encapsulates the sometimes terrifying uncertainty in war times. And of how love found in unexpected places can have very surprising results, particularly for a mouse of an English woman.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: April 2010|
|Publisher: Atlantic Books|
The heroine in this novel is Bella. She's a rather unassuming young woman who has had a rather unassuming childhood - save for the fact that she was motherless at an early age and her relationship with the father is a little strained, to say the least. Bella needs to breathe. So she leaves the drizzle of England for the blue skies and heat of Italy. Her father has propelled her into gentle employment there. She's tentative about the whole thing but warms to it by degrees.
She is now mixing with cosmopolitan, sophisticated people. Beautiful people who can afford beautiful clothes and beautiful homes hugging lush, Italian hillsides. There are also youngish, American women with braying accents. Bella is now part of this heady mix of people, but also slightly apart at the same time. Doesn't quite fit in.
She discovers on her very first day that, apart from the servants, there's someone else who doesn't quite fit in. An Irishman by the name of Edward King (there's a lovely piece right at the beginning of the novel explaining how he came about his name - priceless).
They are both employees and have been taken on by a wealthy family to tutor their rather introverted son. He appears to have no friends of his own age, despite wanting for nothing financially. Bella adores him. She thinks this is the closest she'll get to being a mother. Bella is in the picturesque Italian Riviera in the 1930s. Many people would envy her. But - Hitler is making grumbling noises against Jewish people in Germany. All in not well in paradise.
Although Bella's father is terribly strait-laced and a little bit dull, he's an absolute hoot. His language just rattles off the page beautifully.
The novel see-saws between Bella (in the present) and Anna (in the future), several generations on. But what is their connection? All becomes clear as the story unfolds.
Edward and Bella have a common interest in their young charge. They appear more real to him than his own mother and father. How sad is that? And so begins a perilous journey ... Last train from Liguria and hence the novel's title. This journey is not without difficulties and Bella surprises herself by showing some admirable tenacity. No doubt her father would be proud of her.
Christine Dwyer Hickey's writing is both flowing and elegant. There are some lovely descriptive passages and lines such as when writing about the local Italian architecture she says The buildings, ornate and often shabby, their fragile balconettes like strips of black lingerie.
There's also numerous, humorous instances of the British abroad. It will make you smile.
Eventually, however, Edward's skeletons come clattering out of the cupboard and affects Bella's situation.
This novel highlights finding love where and when you perhaps least expect it. About taking chances and reaping unexpected rewards. It's ultimately about living life as if each day were your last - and in times of war and conflict - it sometimes is.
A delightful read. Recommend.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then why not try My Enemy's Cradle by Sarah Young?
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