Another of my 99p Kindle downloads for the summer, Last Train from Liguria turned out to be the perfect (for me) summer holiday read. It was one of those books which manages to be moving and interesting and yet also gentle and I enjoyed it very much, giving it a 4/5 on Goodreads and Amazon. Yes, I’ve done that a fair bit recently, but I’ve been choosing good books 😉
The story starts by meeting two characters who become central to the plot, both at the end of a period in their lives which has been unsatisfactory or alarming and makes them ready to move on. there are elements of both these characters that you never learn more about, adding a sense of the “snippet of time” theme of the book. A bad back, an eating disorder, a dead sister – all hinted at but unexplained – just part of the baggage people have when they are 30 or so. It moves quickly to Italy, both of them having journeys that in many ways define their personalities, and establishes them in the household of a wealthy and, as it turns out, Jewish, family in Italy during the late 1930’s.
Unsurprisingly the book explores the experience of Jews as Mussolini and Hitler grow in power but also the relationships between the people of the house and family, the love their share for their young charge and the stifling experience of living abroad during times of trouble. It’s a book of understated emotion, of stiff upper lips contrasted with hot and hazy southern European days and the tyranny of idealism and excellent for it.
Interestingly the most dramatic element of the book, one that if it were a film might encompass far more of the action, comes near the end and occupies a very tiny chunk of the narrative. But then, I suppose, life changing events are often like that – just a snippet of life, a moment, that changes everything.
I’d definitely recommend this as a read. it’s not exactly unpredictable but it is well written and moving and definitely a slightly new take of that whole war time troubles scenario.