Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Guest Book Review: Katherine Webb - The Night Falling

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Puglia, 1921. Leandro Cardetta, born into poverty, emigrated to America to make his fortune and has returned home to southern Italy a rich man, accompanied by his glamorous wife, Marcie, an ex-showgirl fighting middle age. Now Leandro has money enough to hire renowned English architect, Boyd Kinsgley, to renovate a crumbling palazzo into an Art Deco statement of wealth, and host Boyd's teenage son and his diffident young second wife, Clare, for one extraordinary summer.

Under the burning sky, beyond the luxury of Leandro's home, tensions are high. Veterans of the Great War are desperate for work and food. Among these is Ettore, Leandro's nephew. Gripped by grief at the loss of his fiancée, Ettore has sworn to identify Livia's killer, and take his revenge. He is too proud to go to his uncle for charity, but when he injures himself one day, he has no choice but to knock on Leandro's door. Meeting Clare there will change everything - and in the most violent way.

During the fierce summer of 1921, all these lives converge. Exactly how did Leandro grow rich in America, and what is the strange hold he has over Boyd? What happened to the first Mrs Kingsley, and what secret haunts the outwardly exuberant Marcie Cardetta? Hearts will be broken, blood will be spilt and the hardest of life's lessons will be learnt as shadows fall.

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The Night Falling is the fifth novel from Katherine Webb and once again she has delivered another stunning, spell bounding, absorbing novel that had me lost in the lives of Ettore and Clare from the very first page. I love how each of Katherine’s novels are all so different from each other and with this new release she takes us back in time to 1921 to Gioia del Colle in Southern Italy. Right from the opening line we feel the sense of unease, tension and suspicion that permeates this novel. The author is adept at getting deep into the hearts and minds of her characters and portrays their anguish, upset and raw emotions extremely well. The description of hunger in the first few pages was jaw dropping and made me stop and think how people in the world face this every day. I felt I was right there back in Italy at such a threatening, uneasy time as people are starving and struggling to exist despite the rich continuing on with their lives as if horrific suffering  is literally not on their doorstep.

This novel is full of strong, courageous characters that will do anything to survive and beat the odds whilst wanting the best for their futures. Clare is spending the summer in Italy with her husband Boyd and stepson Pip at the invitation of Leandro Cardetta. Boyd is redesigning Leandro’s house and needs to be on site in order to complete the work. Clare believes she will spend a relaxing few weeks absorbing the sun and making new friends. But from the start she feels all is not well, Leandro appears to have some sort of hold over Boyd and when she is sent to the country residence of the Cardetta’s she feels like she is being removed from the picture. As the novel progresses her unease just builds and builds. The whole set up just seems sinister and strange to her, she feels no connection to Leandro’s American wife Marcie yet Pip seems to have fallen under her spell and they spent endless hours together attempting to put together a show to perform.

Ettore is the total opposite to the Cardetta’s , a peasant returned from the trenches of The Great War like many others he is struggling to exist and keep his family going. Men returning from the war were promised land to farm for themselves but those were empty promises and now Ettore goes to the town square looking for work every morning. Yes work is sometimes available but the conditions and pay are appalling and when an accident occurs  and he is unable to work Ettore is faced with the tough decision to turn to his uncle Leandro for help. This is not easy for Ettore as his pride and past humiliations stand in his way but he knows without help his sister Paola (a strong, fearless woman who does her best to acquire food for her family through any means possible) father Valerio and nephew Iacopo will go hungry and face the streets. Ettore is a tormented man haunted by the death six months previously of his fiancĂ©e Livia who was brutally attacked as she walked home, he is determined to find her killer and avenge her unjust death.

There was a dip in the middle where I felt not much happened as Clare just seemed to spend endless hours walking in the sunshine to get away from everything or what she suspected may have been going on. I felt the sun was contributing to how the characters were feeling and the conditions only added to the distrust and tension constantly simmering until it was built up and built up and finally exploded. But then the story really picked up again and I was eagerly turning the pages to reach the gut wrenching fantastic finale. Of course there is romance in the story and it was entirely believable as sometimes in novels I feel the romance element is just thrown in to bring the story along a bit. In this case it worked perfectly alongside the ongoing revolution attempted by the peasants to acquire what they were due and deserved. There are plenty of twists and turns in the story of the Cardetta’s and Clare but the author’s writing is so skillful I never would have seen the ending coming although I felt it was fitting after becoming so embroiled in the characters’ lives.

We have all learned about the fascists in history lessons in school but I felt I only ever had brief understanding of what was really happening but this book has certainly made me more aware of what was going on at the time. I liked how Katherine focused in on a small area in Italy and showed what suffering existed and how the people tried to overcome although their methods may not always have been peaceful and had devastating consequences.

There is so much to talk about in this novel but I feel people should just rush out and buy this book as you will acquire a whole new appreciation for the wonderful writing of Katherine Webb.

This is a powerful, excellent, enthralling novel that I won’t forget in a hurry. Little did I think I would find a contender for my book of the year at this late stage but Katherine Webb  has told such a heart breaking, emotional story in such a skilled and consummate way that The Night Falling needs to be read by everyone. Katherine Webb please step forward and take your well-deserved applause this book was just an amazing read.

I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.

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