“It was ten years to the day… that October day had ruptured the fabric of her. It was that simple. She had no idea that a decade later her life was about to be disrupted again…”
– Kate Furnivall, The Italian Wife
Quite a few years ago, I was introduced to a beautiful book called The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall. I love Twentieth Century History and have a particular fascination with anything Russian. It was the perfect story full of love, passion, secrets and history. It began a love affair with Kate Furnivall and this week I finished her eighth novel, The Italian Wife.
Set in Italy in 1932, Isabella Berotti is a pawn in Mussolini’s plan to create the perfect town, rising from the Pontine Marshes. Isabella is a talented architect in the newly created town of Bellina and while she sits outside a café reminiscing about her painful past a woman she has never met asks her to watch her daughter. The woman then proceeds to jump from the town’s clock tower. This woman’s actions send Isabella’s life into a downward spiral as she fights the establishments around her to find the truth about the young girl she is left with and how it connects to the events ten years ago.
What I love most about Furnivall’s novels is her sweeping settings and the way she so convincingly transports you to another part of the world. Like all her other stories, there were times when I felt as though I was walking down the winding Italian streets or looking out over the rolling hills. Her settings are clear and her characters have the right amount of likability and complexity. Each character has a story that usually involves a dark secret and Isabella is no different – she is tormented by the events of her past, unable to let it go until she knows the truth of that fateful day. Rosa, the girl left behind, is the key to finding the answers Isabella craves but Mussolini’s fascist regime blocks her at every turn. Furnivall has done a really good job of creating an underlying fear of Mussolini. Even when he is not directly affecting the story, his presence can be felt. Every character fears him and their actions are dictated by that fear. Secrets are revealed and threaten the lives of many. At the end of the day love, family and friendship conquer all and the story comes full circle.
Furnivall’s novels are perfect escapist reading. Every time I pick one of her books I get lost in the story and emerge with a smile on my face. They’re pure enjoyment and if you love a historical setting then I urge you to give her books a go!