Fiction: 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.
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.
Sunday Indo Living