The Rome Affair by Karen Swan
I think I mentioned in a previous post that there was a possibility that we were booked to go on holiday to Barbados, unfortunately this was cancelled at the last moment due to the change in the UK's risk status. Whilst we were a little disappointed to be missing out on sea, sand and relaxation, it is far more important to keep people safe and well. Barbados is not going anywhere and we will visit soon (ish). The cancellation did leave me with a dilemma though. Having dived into Autumn like a labrador into a pile of leaves, I was left with a couple of beach reads promised for my holiday. Luckily we had a couple of days on the Kent coast planned instead and the weather was blazing hot, serious T-Shirt weather. If I squinted slightly this was almost Barbados weather. Beach reads are on!
Cesca Hackett lives in Rome and works as a tour guide and blogger about La Dolce Vita. One day she discovers a stolen handbag and returns it to its owner, the rather grand Viscontessa Elena. Following a conversation with Elena, Cesca agrees to write the Viscontessa's memoirs and we are plunged into a world of luxury travel, balls and the insanely wealthy. But are the stories that Elena is telling Cesca true? And why does she carry around an unopened letter from her long dead husband. And what secrets lay in the tunnels under the Viscontessa's beautiful home.
First of all, I would say that if you enjoyed 'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo' then this may very well be worth a read. Elena is a fascinating character. She comes from a Kennedy rich family and she mingles with Jackie O and Liz Taylor. At times, and certainly when she is younger, she comes across as rather gauche, her early marriages are a disaster and her cold and disdainful family provide her with little support. She becomes a woman keen to cement her status. When she does eventually marry for love, she has become so hurt, she holds a lot of herself back.
Cesca on the other hand is utterly charming. Fleeing the UK after a devastating event, she remains such a positive and engaging character with her quirky dress sense and passion for all things Roman. I loved her apartment, her neighbours and friends and Karen Swan keeps the mystery going to the end for us to find out what made Cesca flee to Rome in the first place.
Karen Swan employs a flashback technique during the novel that gives us a glimpse into the truth of Elena's story and it is a good technique and provides depth to the story. We can compare Elena's memory with the words she is providing Cesca. But why is she choosing to do this?
Like all Karen Swan's novels, the location truly shines. Rome is told through all the 5 senses and makes you ache to visit this beautiful city. The glamorous lifestyle is like curling up with the latest edition of Hello! I can imagine a photo-spread with Elena showcasing her tasteful house and perfect style. But like most things, what you see may not necessarily tell the whole truth.
This has been a very enjoyable read, perfect for sunny climes be they Barbados or a sunny Kent and it cheered me up no end.