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Customer Review

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 1 August 2021
Sarah Winman assembles a diverse cast of characters to deliver a “feel good” saga set in Italy and London. Happy endings I am fine with, but this was too much.

The young army corporal and the ageing art historian we first meet in 1944, in Florence, brought together by chance. This “odd couple” was promising, and the early pages are the best part of the book. Through these two ripple wider circles of family and friends. All salt-of-the-earth types and neither rounded nor credible characters. They felt rather like a “gang” – fans of Friends would probably love it. Chance and rather unlikely good fortune propels the story.

The interesting question is will Ulysses and Evelyn meet up again – hints of Friends again. This propels the reader through until 1980.The setting is divided between an East End pub and an Italian pensione. Like other similar novels the author checklists the big events with broad accuracy. However, the characters seemed remarkably tolerant, open-minded and liberal. Just too good to be true. Too nice really. This makes it difficult to plot social changes as I assume the author would like to do and as the reader would expect.

Dialogue is also anachronistic. Modern expressions are freely given to speakers in the 1940s and 1950s when they were absolutely not current. I am not sure how bothered the author was to get this right, as she also gives us a talking tree and a free-thinking parrot.

In my humble opinion, a novel must convince and challenge – and this does neither.
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