A tender love story between woman and child, set during and long after the Nazi occupation of Rome, masterfully explores themes of identity, belonging and loss|
Expectation can cast a long shadow over a writer’s confidence, which is why second novels have a reputation for being born out of angst and vulnerability, no matter how the first book was received. Early One Morning is Virginia Baily’s second novel, and yet if she was angst-ridden when writing it, that doesn’t show. It is incredibly sure-footed, a big, generous and absorbing piece of storytelling, fearless, witty and full of flair.
If you, like me, find yourself wary at the prospect of another novel set during either world war, be assured that there is something highly original about Baily’s approach. Daniele Levi is a boy of about seven, living in Rome’s Jewish quarter; it’s 1944, and the German occupying forces raid the area and round up its inhabitants. We see Daniele and his family on a truck, his mother in a “going-away outfit”, as if she had planned an escape there wasn’t time for. In her panic, and intuiting what awaits, Daniele’s mother hands her son over to an onlooker, a young woman. This is our protagonist and chief narrator, Chiara Ravello. What follows is the story of how Chiara and Daniele’s two lives, brutally flung together, play out. Continue reading...