Saturday 10 December 2016

Fiction: Early One Morning by Virginia Baily

Fleet €11.70

Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30

Virginia Baily: exquisitely rendered tale
Virginia Baily: exquisitely rendered tale
Early One Morning by Virginia Baily.

One definition of joy: discovering a new author. Early One Morning is Virginia Baily's (pictured) second novel but so captivated was I by it, that I've added Africa Junction (her first) to my list.

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From the opening moment, plunged into Rome in 1943 and the company of quixotic, courageous Chiara Ravello, I was hooked.

The Nazis are herding the Jews out of the Eternal City to an unspeakable fate. Poignant echoes of Sophie's Choice resonate as a young mother desperately hands over her seven-year-old son Daniele to a total stranger's care - to Chiara.

From there this sure-footed author brings us to a stunningly evoked Rome of the 70s where Chiara works as a translator, enjoying a cultivated life with her coterie of sophisticated friends.

Of Daniele the boy she raised single-handedly, there is no trace, save remnants of the chaos this deeply damaged boy wreaked. Then a letter comes from a Welsh teenager searching for her father.

Baily expertly moves the action back and forth in a tale that is sad, brave, strange and betimes, witty.

Baily's acuity especially shines in her portraits of Chiara's relationships: with her epileptic sister Cecelia, with Simone - her father's ersthwile mistress, and with Father Antonio who has his own secrets and above all in the heart-breakingly tender story of her unflinching love for Daniele.

Vividly intelligent, and a paean to the strength of maternal love (which comes in many guises) this exquisitely rendered tale will move all but the stone-hearted to tears.

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