I received a review copy
The New York Times bestselling author of The Russian Concubine returns with a stunning new novel set in Mussolini’s Italy.
Isabella Berotti is an architect, helping to create showpieces that will reflect the glory of her country’s Fascist leaders. She is not a deeply political sort, but designing these buildings of grandiose beauty helps her forget about the pain she’s felt since her husband was murdered years ago. One of her greatest accomplishments is the clock tower in the town of Bellina, outside Rome.
But as she is admiring it one day, a woman approaches her, asking her to watch her ten-year-old daughter. Minutes later, to Isabella’s horror, the woman leaps to her death from that very clock tower.
There are photos of the woman right after the suicide, taken by Roberto Falco. A propaganda photographer for Il Duce, he is expected to show his nation in the most flattering light. But what Roberto and Isabella have seen reflects a more brutal reality, and in a place where everyone is watching and friends turn on friends to save themselves, their decision to take a closer look may be a dangerous mistake.
The year is 1922 and Isabella Berotti is a young, expectant mother living in Milan. She and her husband are visiting the outdoor markets when he is shot and killed. Isabella rushes over to help him, and is shot in the back, losing her baby and ability to walk.
Ten years later, Isabella has used all that frustration and grief to motivate her into walking, only suffering from a slight limp, and achieve her dream of becoming an architect. She is currently residing in Bellina, helping to achieve Mussolini’s dream of reclaiming the marshlands for Italy, and creating a modern state. While life her life has been pleasant, the day of the accident and death of her husband continues to haunt her. This anniversary she is spending her time reminiscing at a café, when a woman approaches her asking if she could watch her daughter Rosa. Before Isabella can refuse, the woman whispers that “they” know who really killed Isabella’s husband and promptly runs off before Isabella can respond. Intrigued as to what the woman may know, Isabella sits with Rosa, entertaining her. Everything is fine until Isabella sees the woman throw herself off a building Isabella created.
Now Isabella finds herself caught up in a web of political intrigue, as Rosa proves to be a powerful piece to both the fascists and the rebels. She teams up with a photographer, Roberto Falco, to protect Rosa, remain out of prison, bring to light the dirty deals in government, and finally solve the mystery as to who murdered her husband and child.
I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was thrilling, interesting, and impossible to put down. The historical truths of Mussolini attempting to control and reshape the land, even going as far as building cities and farms in impossible places, was a fascinating backdrop and made me interested to learn even more.
The writing was extremely well done and the characters are multi-dimensional, lovable, and always exceeding my expectations as to what would happen next. In fact I am not only looking forward to her next project, but planning on reading everything Furnival has written prior to this novel.