The Italian Wife
Set in Mussolini’s Italy in 1932, this novel certainly starts with drama. Isabella Berotti is sitting in a café when she is asked to look after a young girl for a few minutes. Naturally she is horrified when the mother throws herself from the clock tower a few minutes later. This begins a breathless and compelling plot with communist rebels, secrets from the past, and nasty Blackshirts; the leering and arrogant figure of Mussolini himself even makes an appearance. The prose can be somewhat purple at times, and this is definitely towards the romantic side of historical fiction. There are consuming kisses, desire seeping from the skin, melting into each other and powerful aches – and that’s just page 262.
It is well-researched and clearly reflects a society where your thoughts as well as your actions need to be guarded. The reasons why people were originally drawn into fascism, viewing the movement as a way to encourage economic improvements and modernisation are clear. The downsides and hidden price to be paid for this ‘progress’ are also evident. If you like Victoria Hislop and Santa Montefiore novels, you will probably like this entertaining holiday read.