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Still Life

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By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wi By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades. Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.


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By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wi By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades. Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

30 review for Still Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4.5 rounded up This is a wonderful character driven story of kindred spirits which takes us on an emotional journey from Florence to the East End of London. In 1944 Evelyn Skinner and Margaret Somebody or other meet Private Ulysses Temper of the 8th Army in the Tuscan Hills. Evelyn and Ulysses form a connection and a bond that will remain for many years. Meanwhile in London, Uly’s wife Peg is enduring the war years as best she can with some ‘comforting’ from Eddie an American soldier. Post war th 4.5 rounded up This is a wonderful character driven story of kindred spirits which takes us on an emotional journey from Florence to the East End of London. In 1944 Evelyn Skinner and Margaret Somebody or other meet Private Ulysses Temper of the 8th Army in the Tuscan Hills. Evelyn and Ulysses form a connection and a bond that will remain for many years. Meanwhile in London, Uly’s wife Peg is enduring the war years as best she can with some ‘comforting’ from Eddie an American soldier. Post war the action alternates between the two areas - in London it centres on The Stoat and Parot with landlord Col and wonderful customers like Cress and Pete. Where to start?? I adore the way Sarah Winman writes, her descriptions are so lovely that the quality of the writing makes my heart sing!!! There’s humour some of which is burst out loud laughter it’s so original, some of the phrases, thoughts and asides the characters make me absolutely crack me up! The art, the richness of the Florentine heritage, the wine, the food, the glorious characters with lively conversations that make you feel as if you’re a welcome guest at their table and they are also your friends. It’s hard to pick out the characters as they’re all fantastic with some traits towards the eccentric which always resonates with me but if I have to pick one apart from Uly then it has to be Cress and Claude the parrot is hysterical. Who knew a parrot read Shakespeare!? There are some colourful sections such as two men, one attired in shorts, a girl, a parrot, a car named Betsy and an ancient Baedeker journey from the East End to settle in Florence. As it turns out, all roads lead to Florence for the characters in the book. This wonderful book is about love, deep and lasting friendship, complex relationships, beauty in the simple things as well as wondrous ones, there’s kindness, compassion and some sadness. I confess to the occasional tear but it’s mostly full of joy. I like how the story is set in its historical context with real events referenced such as the disastrous floods in Florence of 1966. My only reservation is how the book backtracks at the end to Evelyn’s first encounter with Florence which I didn’t find as enjoyable as being with the east end crew, in spite of the colourful ‘portrait’ of EM Forster! Overall, an emotional, moving, hilarious, joyous, clever and beautifully written book which I love. I’ll always want to read anything by Sarah Winman as she creates magic with words. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to 4th Estate for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Simply magnificent! This book is almost certain to be my best read of 2021 and is a rare addition to my favourites shelf. It is a love letter to Italy, to Florence in particular, to art and to E.M. Forster. Above all, it is a life-affirming tribute to made families, or families of choice. Stretching over 4 decades - from the 40s to the 70s - Still Life covers a lot of historical events, some of which are key to the plot, including the Great Flood of Florence in 1966 which inspired Winman to write Simply magnificent! This book is almost certain to be my best read of 2021 and is a rare addition to my favourites shelf. It is a love letter to Italy, to Florence in particular, to art and to E.M. Forster. Above all, it is a life-affirming tribute to made families, or families of choice. Stretching over 4 decades - from the 40s to the 70s - Still Life covers a lot of historical events, some of which are key to the plot, including the Great Flood of Florence in 1966 which inspired Winman to write it. But more than anything, Still Life is all about the characters. At its centre are Ulysses Temper and Evelyn Skinner. They meet in Tuscany towards the end of WWII, as the allies are about to liberate Florence. Ulysses is a young Private in the British Army, while Evelyn is already in her golden years, a well-respected art historian, there to help identify and recover lost or hidden art treasures. Their encounter, while brief, is profound and mutually impactful. If Ulysses and Evelyn are the soul of the story, then Cressy is the heart. Already 'Old Cress' at war's end, he is the wise, kind and generous moral anchor of the East London village where Ulysses grew up and to which he returns after demobilisation. There are a number of other key characters, all lovingly fleshed-out, who populate the story and who continually reappear over the decades, but special mention must go to Claude, the blue Amazonian parrot, who becomes part of the family. He may be from South America, but having spent years living in the local pub, he can speak English. In context (at times) no less! Usually I would consider that sort of thing to be a bit corny, and maybe even annoying like a joke that wears thin, but here Claude provides some light relief and acts as a circuit breaker when the emotion is starting to overwhelm. Something I thought about a lot, especially in the second half of the book, was the dramatic tension. Sure, there was some provided by the historical events, particularly the two I referred to above. But when a story relies so much on characterisation, where does it come from? Winman has done a superb job in creating tension in two ways. Firstly, there is the almost sliding-doors level of tension that comes from watching Ulysses and Evelyn dancing around each others' lives for literally years. At times it had me groaning for them! When will they finally meet again??? And they couldn’t believe how so many roads had either led to him or led to her. And for Evelyn, there was equal sadness as there was delight at hearing how close they’d been to one another, how touchable, if only – the preciousness of time, you see. The second thing is to do with the age of Evelyn and Cressy. Both integral to the story and already seniors at the beginning, we grow to love them and can't imagine life without them, but realistically they are old... As events unfolded, I found myself figuratively sweating for them to stay safe. No spoilers here. As a side-note, I will point out that I hadn't read A Room with a View, but I did pick it up as a kind of companion audio-read in the middle of Still Life. In my view, you don't need to be familiar with it to enjoy Still Life. But my reading of Still Life has definitely enhanced my enjoyment of Forster's book, as I recognised Winman's frequent nods and winks. I loved everything about Still Life, and despite its length (which I was glad of) I was already thinking about turning back to the start to begin again, even before I'd finished. Definitely one to re-read and savour. With thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia for an eARC to read and review. Note that as this was an advance copy, the quote above may have changed at publication.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    Having absolutely loved Tin Man, I was really looking forward to this new one by Sarah Winman. And... I wish I'd loved it more. Once again, it's beautifully character-driven with a simple yet emotive writing style. Characters lead the story rather than plot, however of a book of this length I was kind of waiting for... something to happen. It's a long old book and — although this is because it spans decades in both Florence and East London in the mid-20th century — perhaps it could have worked b Having absolutely loved Tin Man, I was really looking forward to this new one by Sarah Winman. And... I wish I'd loved it more. Once again, it's beautifully character-driven with a simple yet emotive writing style. Characters lead the story rather than plot, however of a book of this length I was kind of waiting for... something to happen. It's a long old book and — although this is because it spans decades in both Florence and East London in the mid-20th century — perhaps it could have worked better if it was trimmed down significantly. This next point comes down to personal preference, but my god I wish Winman used quotation marks. As a stylistic choice, I understand that it can lend itself to the slightly whimsical, flowing writing style that she has, however in a book with quite as much dialogue as this one (entire scenes can be practically all dialogue), it just feels like a barrier to overcome while reading it. At times it's entirely unclear not only who is speaking, but whether anyone is at all or whether a sentence is part of the prose. Most of the notes I made while reading where slightly towards the negative end of the scale... and yet... I really enjoyed so much of it. I loved the descriptions of Florence and the East End. I loved seeing them change subtly over the time that the book spans. I loved the writing about historical events that are touched upon — the Second World War and the 1966 flood of the Arno being two of the key ones. I loved so many of the characters, and how they all developed throughout the book. I've already recommended this book to a couple of people I know who are as in love with Florence as a person can be, yet overall I'm not really sure how I feel about it. Disappointed, probably, however that is mostly down to having such high expectations based on a previous Winman book. It's certainly not bad. In fact it's pretty damn good. And yet.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    4.5 Oh, my heart is full. Still Life is a sprawling novel that begins in 1944 in Italy and goes on for decades. This novel had so many things I love - first, some wonderfully memorable characters: Ulysses Temper - a British young man, whom we first meet during his stint in Italy during WWII. While there, he met the effusive and erudite sexagenarian, Evelyn Skinner, an art historian, a unique person. Their short meeting left an impression on each other. Ulysses's wife and first love is Peg - a bea 4.5 Oh, my heart is full. Still Life is a sprawling novel that begins in 1944 in Italy and goes on for decades. This novel had so many things I love - first, some wonderfully memorable characters: Ulysses Temper - a British young man, whom we first meet during his stint in Italy during WWII. While there, he met the effusive and erudite sexagenarian, Evelyn Skinner, an art historian, a unique person. Their short meeting left an impression on each other. Ulysses's wife and first love is Peg - a beautiful woman, independent and stubborn. Their relationship is unusual. They live in a room above a pub where they work. Peg's "dalliance" with another man results in a baby girl. Ulysses adores her as if she were his biological daughter. He's a better parent than Peggy could ever be. The pub is filled with interesting characters - Col, the publican, Pete, an accomplished pianist struggling to make it, Cres, a father figure to Ulysses. To make things even more interesting, there's an extraordinary blue parrot named Claude. Claude is quite the character and a philosopher of sorts. Ulysses' good deed, performed when in Italy during the war, sees him as the owner of a beautiful apartment in Florence. So, together with Peg's daughter Alys, Cress, and Claude the parrot, they make their way to their new life. A new location, a new business, a new language, new friends, - a life filled with light, love, good food, and the simple joys of life - the three ex-pats and their bird flourish. The book is also filled with art and art appreciation; traveling and art as means to opening one's mind and heart. This is not a perfect novel. Some might grumble about the overly precocious child, not to mention the surreal parrot. The book takes a little while to get going, it picks up the pace and becomes much more interesting once Ulysses and Co moved to Florence. Despite its imperfections, Still Life is full of heart; there are some extraordinarily beautiful paragraphs, there's tenderness, quirkiness, memorable characters, chance encounters, beautiful descriptions, and so much more. Since I can't travel to Italy or anywhere else really, I shall have to indulge in some of Fellini's movies that I haven't watched in a long time. I've been listening on repeat to this Italian rock band, so why not watch some Italian classic movies that were mentioned in the novel - La Dolce Vita, The Bicycle Thief, an amazing movie. My literary love affair with Sarah Winman's writing continues. May it continue to grow. I've received this novel via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I find something very moving about stories of inter-generational friendships. Novels such as “Autumn” by Ali Smith and “The Offing” by Benjamin Myers describe profound connections between individuals who are at very different stages of life but establish a rapport that obliterates traditional social divides based on age, gender or sexuality. Sarah Winman has explored such a relationship before in her novel “A Year of Marvellous Ways” where an eccentric ninety-year-old woman and a soldier who jus I find something very moving about stories of inter-generational friendships. Novels such as “Autumn” by Ali Smith and “The Offing” by Benjamin Myers describe profound connections between individuals who are at very different stages of life but establish a rapport that obliterates traditional social divides based on age, gender or sexuality. Sarah Winman has explored such a relationship before in her novel “A Year of Marvellous Ways” where an eccentric ninety-year-old woman and a soldier who just returned from fighting in France form an unlikely bond. In her new novel “Still Life” a similar dynamic is established at the beginning of the story when Evelyn Skinner, a 60-something art historian and Ulysses Temper, a young British soldier meet in Tuscany during wartime. This fleeting but profound encounter sticks with them both over the years. When he returns to England Ulysses discovers his early love affair and marriage to free-spirited Peg has inalterably changed during the time he's been away at war. Meanwhile, Evelyn fights for the preservation of art while musing upon the early years of her life when she fell in love with Florence and a woman who taught her more than Italian. We follow their lives over the decades from the mid-40s to the late 70s as their lives separately develop and society changes. While I found the interactions between Ulysses and Evelyn (and, later on, between Peg's daughter Alys and Evelyn) touching, I felt somewhat ambivalent about the way the narrative keeps them separated and then draws them together again through coincidence. There was something artificial and controlled about this device which makes a game of how they come close to encountering each other on numerous occasions before finally reuniting. Similarly, there's a whimsical nature to Winman's style of characterisation which kept me at a bit of a distance from many of the personalities in this story and meant I never fully believed in them. This was especially true when it came to a blue-feathered parrot named Claude who likes to quote Shakespeare and performs near-fantastical feats. I wanted to love them yet never found myself completely falling for them. This was dismaying because I love to read about unconventional personalities in historical novels which bring colour to a history which too often feels black and white. People who break social boundaries and live their own truth aren't often memorialised so I appreciate how stories like this try to forge connections across time. Read my full review of Still Life by Sarah Winman on LonesomeReader

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    My thanks to NetGalley and Fourth Estate for a review copy of this one. Still Life is a heart-warming novel about art, Italy, and really, about life and its many colours. The book opens towards the end of the Second World War, when art historian (and perhaps, spy?) Evelyn Skinner, in her sixties, meets young soldier Ulysses Temper and his superior Captain Darnley in Florence; they form an instant bond, and Evelyn ends up passing on to Ulysses, her love for Florence, and art. The war ends and Ulys My thanks to NetGalley and Fourth Estate for a review copy of this one. Still Life is a heart-warming novel about art, Italy, and really, about life and its many colours. The book opens towards the end of the Second World War, when art historian (and perhaps, spy?) Evelyn Skinner, in her sixties, meets young soldier Ulysses Temper and his superior Captain Darnley in Florence; they form an instant bond, and Evelyn ends up passing on to Ulysses, her love for Florence, and art. The war ends and Ulysses heads back to England where he takes up a job in a pub run by his old friend Col and bonds with pianist Pete, and his father’s old chum (now his), Cressy. Here he also runs into Peg whom he had married before the war but who now has a child with an American soldier she had fallen in love with. Life is moving along (ups and downs) when Ulysses receives an unexpected inheritance and ends up moving to Florence with a motley crew—Peg’s daughter Alys or Kid, Cressy, and the pub’s blue parrot, Claude. Here they attempt to build a new life, one in which poetry and art become a matter of course. There they form new bonds with new friends (particularly, the solicitor Massimo) and their neighbours, but old friends back in England are neither forgotten no far away, for Pete, Col, and in her own way Peg remain part of their lives with visits, constant contact, but much more so by being there, when needed. Alongside we also keep meeting Evelyn Skinner and keeping up with developments in her life. The lives of Evelyn and Ulysses and their friends criss-cross and intertwine, as we follow them from the 1940s through to the 1970s. Honestly speaking, when I started this book, I found it really hard to get into for nearly the first 20 per cent or so, but then once Ulysses, Kid, Cressy and Claude began to travel to Italy (perhaps a little before that), something changed and I began to be drawn in. Before I knew it, I was in a completely opposite position from not being into the book at all to being completely invested in all the characters, their stories—eager to know how things would turn out for each of them. The book deals with so many things, art, philosophy, life—its ups and downs, friendships, relationships, love, loss—a whole gamut of topics and a whole gamut of emotions—perhaps a range of those also captured on canvas or in sculptures, but certainly ones we see play out every day. But what stands out ultimately is how important love and support are in life—not romantic love but love of friends, those whom one can bond with, those that stand by you unconditionally, unquestioningly, those who have always got your back. Ulysses and his friends—all of them—have just that and that is heart-warming to see. I enjoyed Winman’s writing for the most part (this was my first time reading her), her descriptions of Florence (If you love the city, I think you’ll enjoy this all the more), the humour she manages to weave into the writing and plot, and also her story-telling. At times, it was very raw, very visceral which I am not sure how I felt about (may be not entirely comfortable). My favourite part of the book though were the characters themselves—pretty much all of them are in some way or other eccentric, some of their motivations (particularly, Peg, I thought) don’t make sense and yet, you end up loving them all—main or supporting—each has a distinct personality and voice, each has their flaws, each makes mistakes, but you end up rooting for them all (with the exception of Ted, but then…). (I did want to write more about them, but I feel that would end up turning into an essay.) And speaking of characters, how can one not write about Claude, the Shakespeare quoting parrot (see cover image)—whether or not he was Shakespeare reborn, he is a loveable bird and a hero in his own right---I wont say how, but read the book to see. I wish I could write something intelligent about the discussion of art in the book, because there was that too, but honestly with the state of mind I was in, I didn’t really take all of it in. But I did enjoy the discussion of women’s role in the renaissance as subjects and as artists (there were the rare women painters but sadly lost or hidden in the dominant histories). And being a story of Englishmen (and women) in Italy, this would feel incomplete without Forster and Baedeker, so of course we have them too, Evelyn having ‘met’ him when she made her very first visit in her youth. I won’t tell you what happens but reading the book left me wanting to reread both A Room with a View and The Portrait of a Lady (James is mentioned too). From a not so great start (though even that made sense later), this turned out to be a lovely, warm, read, full of hope, and about all that is good about human beings. Well worth a read. 4.25 stars from me! Lines which resonated with me: So, time heals. Mostly. Sometimes carelessly. And in unsuspecting moments, the pain catches and reminds one of all that’s been missing. The fulcrum of what might have been. But then it passes. Winter moves into spring and swallows return. One thing that irked me (and this may well be because it was a proof copy): Mrs Kaur cooking Dal Makhana (should be Dal makhani, that i.e., buttery dal—a dish; not dal makhana (dal with foxnuts/lotus seeds—not a dish).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    This is a long sprawling novel set in the decades postwar with a bunch of engaging and interesting characters. The wonderfully named Ulysses Temper, a soldier and elderly Evelyn Skinner are the two main characters, but all including the Shakespeare quoting parrot Claude are what made this readable. I’m not generally a reader that cares about missing speech marks, usually once I’m in the flow of a book it doesn’t matter but here I found the lack of punctuation distracting and annoying. Otherwise This is a long sprawling novel set in the decades postwar with a bunch of engaging and interesting characters. The wonderfully named Ulysses Temper, a soldier and elderly Evelyn Skinner are the two main characters, but all including the Shakespeare quoting parrot Claude are what made this readable. I’m not generally a reader that cares about missing speech marks, usually once I’m in the flow of a book it doesn’t matter but here I found the lack of punctuation distracting and annoying. Otherwise the writing especially the settings and descriptions are lovely.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sahil Javed

    i haven't even read this book yet and i already know it's going to make me cry i haven't even read this book yet and i already know it's going to make me cry

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    Still Life is the fourth novel by best-selling award-winning British actress and author, Sarah Winman. In 1944, twenty-four-year-old Private Ulysses Temper meets sixty-four-year-old art historian, Evelyn Skinner in Florence, where their exposure to classic artworks prompts a discussion on its importance. Back in London post-war, Temps works in a pub, accedes to his wife’s rejection and attempts to foster a love of art in her daughter. Then Ulysses finds his fortunes radically changed due to an i Still Life is the fourth novel by best-selling award-winning British actress and author, Sarah Winman. In 1944, twenty-four-year-old Private Ulysses Temper meets sixty-four-year-old art historian, Evelyn Skinner in Florence, where their exposure to classic artworks prompts a discussion on its importance. Back in London post-war, Temps works in a pub, accedes to his wife’s rejection and attempts to foster a love of art in her daughter. Then Ulysses finds his fortunes radically changed due to an impulsive and heroic act performed back in 1944 in a little square of Santo Spirito in Florence. After due consideration, he is living in Tuscany with a young girl not his daughter, an older man not his father, and an utterly extraordinary blue Amazonian parrot. Evelyn continues her academic life teaching at Slade to enraptured students, and swimming regularly in the ponds with her friend, renowned artist, Dorothy Cunningham. But neither she nor Ulysses have forgotten their encounter, although a reunion will be quite some time in coming. Winman’s writing has the feel of Anne Tyler novel and shades of Kate Atkinson: lives laid out for the reader to explore, to revel in. And what a cast populates her tale! Not all are endearing and some are decidedly eccentric: a publican who likes to drive an ever-wailing ambulance; a wearer of desert shorts whose visions prove profitable when bet upon; sentient trees which share their wisdom; and a parrot whose prescient quotes and insightful comments delight and often bemuse. Less odd but still remarkable are: a singer of volcanic temper whose voice enchants and looks entrance; a piano player with a talent for composition; a plastics magnate who truly knows the meaning of charity; a man who crafts world globes by hand; and a smart, fierce, talented young girl with a maturity well beyond her years. Adding richness to the story are support characters, the neighbours and incidental persons: a notary, a café cook, a med student, an elderly Contessa, pensione guests, a superior officer, a certain famous author, a mentally retarded daughter and an Indian shopkeeper. What many of Winman’s characters have in common is a generous capacity for love, but their interactions also provide lots of laugh-out-loud humour. Winman does unfortunately indulge in that annoying editorial affectation of omitting quote marks for speech, but the story, the characters and the marvellous prose are so compelling that it can just about be forgiven. Entertaining and exceptionally moving, this is a book to be savoured. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Harper Collins Australia.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Will

    I was looking forward to this novel, having read (like so many GR reviewers here), Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit and Tin Man. I enjoyed both, particularly Tin Man, which I thought was a little gem of a book. As I was reading Still Life, I was liking it but also thinking I would be writing a critical review, tallying up the parts that troubled me. Was she trying too hard to inject a quirky humor? Were certain storylines necessary? And the parrot! While I know that parrots are highly intelligent, I was looking forward to this novel, having read (like so many GR reviewers here), Winman’s When God Was a Rabbit and Tin Man. I enjoyed both, particularly Tin Man, which I thought was a little gem of a book. As I was reading Still Life, I was liking it but also thinking I would be writing a critical review, tallying up the parts that troubled me. Was she trying too hard to inject a quirky humor? Were certain storylines necessary? And the parrot! While I know that parrots are highly intelligent, the abilities Claude the parrot displayed in the novel defied credibility. A bit of magic, a bit of whimsy perhaps, but it was bugging me even if he managed to elicit a smile once or twice. Picky things, but picky things that I worried would capsize my overall final appreciation of the novel and lead to a lower rating. However, things began to change for me, and I will repeat what I have read in many reviews: the novel is so warm and big hearted that it won me over. Thankfully, my annoyances were somewhat diminished by passages that were eloquently written and a large cast of fully realized characters. I embraced the themes of the importance and appreciation of art, and my emotions were stirred at the look of love in all its variations. As I considered the novel overnight, I was beginning to think that it was perhaps more than the sum of its parts and there was more meaning to be had than I thought. I do admire some of Winman’s narrative choices, such as ending the novel with a character’s early back story. It felt like a risky move, but it worked. So, despite my criticisms (take them or leave them), I succumbed to the emotional pull and, lastly, to Winman’s loving depiction of Florence, Italy, the setting of most of the novel. She totally succeeded in firing up a desire in me to book a trip there immediately.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)

    It's always distressing when a book you have been looking forward to doesn't catch you instantly. I despaired when I struggled to read this in the beginning, but then I stopped thinking too much and let myself be lost in it. Lo and behold, I was soon transfixed! In a lot of ways, Still Life continues with the themes that Winman first introduced in her earlier novel, Tin Man. A double examination of art and humanity, together and apart, friendships and romance, set mostly in Florence, which is a It's always distressing when a book you have been looking forward to doesn't catch you instantly. I despaired when I struggled to read this in the beginning, but then I stopped thinking too much and let myself be lost in it. Lo and behold, I was soon transfixed! In a lot of ways, Still Life continues with the themes that Winman first introduced in her earlier novel, Tin Man. A double examination of art and humanity, together and apart, friendships and romance, set mostly in Florence, which is a vibrant character here in its own right. The title belies the narrative for it's as much about staying still as it's about motion. It's sort of like passing your hands through the sands of time to gaze at the grains that stick. Once again, Winman reaffirms my faith in the goodness of humanity, a faith that has been steadily dwindling lately. She makes a case for the sorry lot of us, painting us bright on a canvas of compassion. She also talks about art's profound place in our world. How it moves us, changes and alters us, gives us a fleeting glimpse into something true, real, eternal. Most of all, it is a lively celebration of those small things & tiny moments that stay with us. The people we meet at the right point in our lives, the chances taken and missed, the lives intersected and not, the families built by bonds better than blood. It is also a queer novel but not just of the young, middle-aged & old too, not just gay, lesbian & bi too. It's a slow novel; you must let it set the pace. It can get didactic, tedious, can get lost in the sights and smells, but allow it to find its way to you just like the characters find themselves. (I was sent a physical ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    vicki honeyman

    An epic dear, and bittersweet, character-driven love story to the city of Florence, Italy and the incredibly accomplished and charming stars who we are blessed to spend time with. Good luck not falling in love with each and every one of them, to wish you were seated at their table dining on every delicious meal they cook together, and to fantasize that these are the people you call "family." We spend thirty-five colorful and heartbreaking years, from WWII and into the 1970's, with the extended f An epic dear, and bittersweet, character-driven love story to the city of Florence, Italy and the incredibly accomplished and charming stars who we are blessed to spend time with. Good luck not falling in love with each and every one of them, to wish you were seated at their table dining on every delicious meal they cook together, and to fantasize that these are the people you call "family." We spend thirty-five colorful and heartbreaking years, from WWII and into the 1970's, with the extended family and the people they've chosen to spend their lives with and hold close to their hearts. Best yet is Claude, a parrot who speaks profound words of wisdom, just one of the housemates in this story that is as tender and moving as "Lonesome Dove." If you aren’t already a fan of her writing, Sarah Winman’s "Still Life" will win you over!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I actually feel bereft at finishing this brilliantly written book. Sarah Winman does it again, writes a story that feels so real with characters that are alive with life. Just read it, you will not regret it

  14. 4 out of 5

    Penelope

    This is a hard review to write as on finishing this book I feel utterly bereft, I really, really did not want it to end, I could quite happily pick it back up and start it all over again and that is a rare feeling for me. This is a book that will stay with me, I think I will find myself wondering how the characters are doing whilst I'm stood in a queue or in a quiet moment, and I know that if I ever go to Florence I will be looking for them out the corner of my eye. I adored every single charact This is a hard review to write as on finishing this book I feel utterly bereft, I really, really did not want it to end, I could quite happily pick it back up and start it all over again and that is a rare feeling for me. This is a book that will stay with me, I think I will find myself wondering how the characters are doing whilst I'm stood in a queue or in a quiet moment, and I know that if I ever go to Florence I will be looking for them out the corner of my eye. I adored every single character, from quiet and kind Ulysses to brash and bold Peg, deep thinking and soul feeling Cress, and erudite and wise Evelyn. Each has their story to tell and their part to play in each others and the novel flows along like a river drawing the reader into their lives and immersing them in their loves. This is a story about love, and friendship and families given and families found, it's a story about finding your place in the world, about finding your people and your passion. It a story about loss and grief but also about great great joy. The writing is unique and beautiful, at times I laughed out laugh and other times quietly wept, and the descriptions of Italy are enough to make you feel like you've been. Covering four decades this novel passes in the blink of an eye and four decades more would still not be enough time in this world, with these people. Sarah Winman is an awesome writer and I have loved her previous books but this really is the cream of the crop and although it is only April I think this will be a hard book to beat for my book of this year.

  15. 5 out of 5

    SueLucie

    For most of the book we are on a jaunty ride through three post-war decades - following the fortunes of a group of colourful characters in Florence and London’s east end. Colourful the characters may be, including the Shakespeare-quoting parrot, but I didn’t find them overly engaging. I was more taken with the mass of cultural references, to art and music in particular, and with the descriptions of Florence. I was glad Evelyn’s early story came last, she being my least favourite character, and fo For most of the book we are on a jaunty ride through three post-war decades - following the fortunes of a group of colourful characters in Florence and London’s east end. Colourful the characters may be, including the Shakespeare-quoting parrot, but I didn’t find them overly engaging. I was more taken with the mass of cultural references, to art and music in particular, and with the descriptions of Florence. I was glad Evelyn’s early story came last, she being my least favourite character, and found it a tad overblown. All that rapture and innuendo in Florence at the beginning would have put me off and I so much more enjoyed the part with Ulysses and his entourage. I’d have been glad to leave the story there, at about 75%. So, some of this appealed to me and some of it didn’t. A slight disappointment since I liked one of Sarah Winman’s earlier novels (Tin Man) very much and had hoped to enjoy this equally. With thanks to 4th Estate via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Having very much enjoyed Sarah Winman's first three novels, I never thought I'd give up on any of her later efforts. However, Still Life did absolutely nothing for me. The beginning, with its Italian setting and quirky characters, was promising, but I became so bored when the story moved to London. I made it a quarter of the way through before giving up, as I had seen that a couple of other reviewers felt the same as me, and the story did not improve for them. Having very much enjoyed Sarah Winman's first three novels, I never thought I'd give up on any of her later efforts. However, Still Life did absolutely nothing for me. The beginning, with its Italian setting and quirky characters, was promising, but I became so bored when the story moved to London. I made it a quarter of the way through before giving up, as I had seen that a couple of other reviewers felt the same as me, and the story did not improve for them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul Lockman

    So, time heals. Mostly. Sometimes carelessly. And in unsuspecting moments, the pain catches and reminds one of all that’s been missing. The fulcrum of what might have been. But then it passes. Winter moves into spring and swallows return. The proximity of new skin returns to the sheets. Beauty does what is required. Jobs fulfil and conversations inspire. Loneliness becomes a mere Sunday. Scattered clothes. Empty bowls. Rotting fruit. Passing time. But still life in all its beauty and complexity. So, time heals. Mostly. Sometimes carelessly. And in unsuspecting moments, the pain catches and reminds one of all that’s been missing. The fulcrum of what might have been. But then it passes. Winter moves into spring and swallows return. The proximity of new skin returns to the sheets. Beauty does what is required. Jobs fulfil and conversations inspire. Loneliness becomes a mere Sunday. Scattered clothes. Empty bowls. Rotting fruit. Passing time. But still life in all its beauty and complexity. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. I took a while to get into this but ended up loving it and will add it to my 2021 favourites. I gave Tin Man 5 stars and will look out for anything Sarah Winman publishes. She is such a talented writer, her writing flows beautifully and the characters are authentic, lively and interesting. In this book the city of Florence features as much as the people do. The summary on Goodreads gives an excellent overview. This is a book to savour and one I will definitely re-read at some stage.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    My favourite novel of the year so far. I loved the characters, setting, story, writing and simply didn't want it to end. Thankfully I can read it again. My favourite novel of the year so far. I loved the characters, setting, story, writing and simply didn't want it to end. Thankfully I can read it again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Moseley

    BEST BOOK FOR ME, OF THE YEAR. Oh I really didn't want them to leave me! I felt like I KNEW, and even loved, this loyal family of long-term friends. Plus, the spare way of superbly painting pictures of the geography. LOVED IT ! BEST BOOK FOR ME, OF THE YEAR. Oh I really didn't want them to leave me! I felt like I KNEW, and even loved, this loyal family of long-term friends. Plus, the spare way of superbly painting pictures of the geography. LOVED IT !

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    This was so devilishly charming and warming and full of love I almost couldn’t stand it. Winman’s a lovely writer at the best of times but here she is at full flight conjuring adorably quirky characters and putting them in a Florentine piazza. There was a moment early on when I panicked and thought this was going to do that British twee thing that I hate so much but then Winman got everyone back to Italy and phew it was all good. This is going to go down a treat with so many readers. There are t This was so devilishly charming and warming and full of love I almost couldn’t stand it. Winman’s a lovely writer at the best of times but here she is at full flight conjuring adorably quirky characters and putting them in a Florentine piazza. There was a moment early on when I panicked and thought this was going to do that British twee thing that I hate so much but then Winman got everyone back to Italy and phew it was all good. This is going to go down a treat with so many readers. There are talking trees and birds which should not be my thing but somehow was. It’s all just beautifully queer too which is very much my thing. The Italy Winman draws is the one tourists love to imagine and while it doesn’t exist in reality I was delighted to visit it in fiction. Because there’s only so much stark realism a girl can take and we can all dream. If you’re in the mood for some flights of fancy and something to make you feel warm and fuzzy then this is the book for you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    From 1944 to 1979, from the Tuscan Hills to the East End of London … ‘Somewhere in the Tuscan hills, two English spinsters, Evelyn Skinner and a Margaret someone, were eating a late lunch on the terrace of a modest albergo. It was the 2nd of August. A beautiful summer’s day, if only you could forget there was a war on.’ From the opening sentence, Ms Winman’s story unfolds, over the next forty-five years. The story involves the lives and loves of many different characters, as well as the spirit of From 1944 to 1979, from the Tuscan Hills to the East End of London … ‘Somewhere in the Tuscan hills, two English spinsters, Evelyn Skinner and a Margaret someone, were eating a late lunch on the terrace of a modest albergo. It was the 2nd of August. A beautiful summer’s day, if only you could forget there was a war on.’ From the opening sentence, Ms Winman’s story unfolds, over the next forty-five years. The story involves the lives and loves of many different characters, as well as the spirit of E.M. Forster. The two main characters meet in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa. The Allied troops are advancing, bombs are falling around them. Private Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian, and perhaps a spy. She has come to Italy to salvage art from the ruins, and to remember the past. Their encounter will shape Ulysses’ life for the next forty years. After the war, Ulysses (‘Temps’) works in a pub. His wife Peg has moved on, but not out of his circle. Her daughter Alys becomes important to Ulysses. And so it is, that when Ulysses inherits a property in Florence, he takes Alys with him, as well as his friend Old Cress and an amazing Amazonian parrot named Claude. ‘There are moments in life, so monumental and still, that the memory can never be retrieved without a catch to the throat or an interruption to the beat of the heart.’ Evelyn continues her own life: teaching at Slade and swimming with her friend Dorothy Cunningham. And there are many other characters as well, enriching the story, adding depth and humour to a story which grabbed my attention and held it until the last page. For much of the story, it seems that Ulysses and Evelyn are never going to meet again despite some close encounters. Alys grows into womanhood and struggles at times (don’t we all, when we are young?) to find her own place in the world. Time marches on. Some people adapt to their circumstances, while others are overcome. Different characters move into the story and become part of the journey. And some long-standing characters, such as Col’s 1930s ambulance with its wailing siren, seem indestructible. The story is woven around some historical events, including the flood of Florence in 1966, and mentions others. But it is the characters who will remain with me. ‘So, time heals. Mostly. Sometimes carelessly.’ It took me a little while to become caught up in the story and to realise that speech marks were absent and unnecessary. I enjoyed the well-developed characters, the way in which families were formed out of care, love and respect regardless of biology. And, if you have read ‘A Room with a View’ you will probably enjoy ‘Still Life’ even more. This is a novel I will buy to reread, and I’ll be looking for Ms Winman’s other novels as well. Note: My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna Baillie-Karas

    Set in London & Florence from 1940s to 1970s, this is a warm-hearted, cosy read about Ulysses & his friends who become an unconventional family of sorts. Whimsical and infused with art and kindness, the characters come to life and it’s a good escape to Italy. Too sweet for me and the art dialogue didn’t ring true (I always find it hard to believe soldiers talked about art and poetry in between sniper attacks, but I could be wrong). There was little plot or tension so it was hard to care about th Set in London & Florence from 1940s to 1970s, this is a warm-hearted, cosy read about Ulysses & his friends who become an unconventional family of sorts. Whimsical and infused with art and kindness, the characters come to life and it’s a good escape to Italy. Too sweet for me and the art dialogue didn’t ring true (I always find it hard to believe soldiers talked about art and poetry in between sniper attacks, but I could be wrong). There was little plot or tension so it was hard to care about the characters despite their charm. Very English for a book set in Italy (inspired by E M Forster) - I prefer books by Italian authors in translation but that’s just personal taste. This harks back to E m Forster’s era of English tourists. It’s done beautifully but feels more like a tourism promotion than real life. I can see it on screen, scenes and characters are well drawn and Sarah Winman’s acting background comes across. A pick for Winman fans - a beautiful, sprawling, generous book - but too twee for my taste.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor Slater

    The best book I've read this year. Sun soaked and full of characters I'll carry with me. The best book I've read this year. Sun soaked and full of characters I'll carry with me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Aoife McMenamin

    A tricky one. This book is beautifully written. In particular the descriptions of food, weather and landscape are captivating. The characters are memorable, colourful and vibrant. The story however didn’t grab me and it wasn’t a book I relished picking up. The story begins in 1944 when we meet Ulysses Temper, a young soldier in the British Army. He has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a British art historian in her 60s, in the Tuscan hills and what happens next shapes the course of his li A tricky one. This book is beautifully written. In particular the descriptions of food, weather and landscape are captivating. The characters are memorable, colourful and vibrant. The story however didn’t grab me and it wasn’t a book I relished picking up. The story begins in 1944 when we meet Ulysses Temper, a young soldier in the British Army. He has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a British art historian in her 60s, in the Tuscan hills and what happens next shapes the course of his life. I didn’t really buy into the supposed bond between Ulysses and Evelyn though, and this laid the foundations for my difficulties with the book. Ulysses moves from the East End of London to Florence where he begins a new life, opening a pensione and making globes by hand. We meet a cast of characters (his ex wife Peg, her daughter, his friends and an articulate parrot Claude (yep 🦜!) and thus begins the best part of the book for me, getting to know Ulysses and his entourage. The book concludes with a chapter that sits on its own, felt superfluous to the story, and was, if I’m honest, a little boring. I loved Winman’s last book Tin Man, a great gay novel if ever I’ve read one, and this one has similar LGBT representation in it which is done wonderfully. The backdrop of Florence is magnificent and for anyone with an interest in art and art history (and especially the flooding of Florence in 1966), there’s a lot for you in this book. In summary, I liked it but didn’t love it. I felt it had the potential to be so much more but it was too uneven for my taste. Objectively speaking, a lovely book that you might enjoy much more than I did. 🦜 *Still Life was published this week. I read an advance digital copy courtesy of the publishers @4thstatebooks via @netgalley. As always, this is an honest review.*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    This is a five star book nestled in a three star book. It has an inexplicably dull beginning and and inexplicably dull ending. But the rest is terrific and well worth the cost of entry. It opens in northern Italy late in WW2. Evelyn Skinner is an art historian who has come to Italy to help salvage paintings, where she meets a British soldier called Ulysses Temper. In a short time they develop a friendship, then go their separate ways. Ulysses returns to London to find that his wife has fallen in This is a five star book nestled in a three star book. It has an inexplicably dull beginning and and inexplicably dull ending. But the rest is terrific and well worth the cost of entry. It opens in northern Italy late in WW2. Evelyn Skinner is an art historian who has come to Italy to help salvage paintings, where she meets a British soldier called Ulysses Temper. In a short time they develop a friendship, then go their separate ways. Ulysses returns to London to find that his wife has fallen in love with an American soldier and had his baby. We get to know his circle: his father, his friends, his ex-wife. The book will follow them all over the passing years. For the most part it is set in Florence where Ulysses returns to live. The book's charm lies in the characters whom you come to know and love (especially Ulysses). You think about them when you're not reading the book and you miss them when it ends. They are all loveable and quirky and often funny (if not always believable). It's about the bonds that represent family in our lives. It has astute and loving observations about human nature. There's also a running theme of art, with every character finding an avenue of artistic expression. However I have to admit that the book took a while to win me over - at first I wasn't clear where it was going and I was getting the many characters muddled - and towards the end it goes back to fill in some of Evelyn's back story which frankly I didn't care about. So it's a mixed bag, but when it's good, it's really wonderful. Thank you to Fourth Estate and Net Galley for the chance to read & review this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tea Leaves and Reads

    As with all of Sarah’s books – this is utterly beautiful. Sarah is, as many have said, one of the greatest story tellers of our time. When God Was a Rabbit – published in 2011, was all-consuming and set the bar very high for Sarah’s work. So it’s natural to be cautious about a new publication – rest assured you do not need to be! You need to clear your schedule for this book, because you will get lost in it. It will consume you. You will consume it. There’s happy, sad, hilarious and devestating a As with all of Sarah’s books – this is utterly beautiful. Sarah is, as many have said, one of the greatest story tellers of our time. When God Was a Rabbit – published in 2011, was all-consuming and set the bar very high for Sarah’s work. So it’s natural to be cautious about a new publication – rest assured you do not need to be! You need to clear your schedule for this book, because you will get lost in it. It will consume you. You will consume it. There’s happy, sad, hilarious and devestating aspects – perfectly knitted together to create a beautiful novel. The characters will tug at your heart strings and you will not want to say goodbye to them by the end.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    Make sure you take a good glass of wine along with you on this decades long journey. Exploring numerous, but intimate lives and connections. From young Alice, vivacious and unobtainable Peg, to the consistent and unflappable Ulysses, sweet Ginny, Tree & a contraband blue bird, and of course Evelyn’s brilliantly immersive legacy! (not to mention my spirit animal~ Massimo!) A full cast of characters living through war torn England and Florence, through the 1970s~ a truly human story. I think I coul Make sure you take a good glass of wine along with you on this decades long journey. Exploring numerous, but intimate lives and connections. From young Alice, vivacious and unobtainable Peg, to the consistent and unflappable Ulysses, sweet Ginny, Tree & a contraband blue bird, and of course Evelyn’s brilliantly immersive legacy! (not to mention my spirit animal~ Massimo!) A full cast of characters living through war torn England and Florence, through the 1970s~ a truly human story. I think I could’ve read an entire book of anyone of their lives but together they create a choir, a symphonic peak together- encompassing far more than the years they lived. If you’re also a fan of her previous Tin Man, or you’re new to her elegant and visceral storytelling- this historical epic will delight you layer by layer, then wake your soul up all over again. The kind of story that makes your heart hurt in loving admiration, not wanting to let any of them go... Galley borrowed from the publisher.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Newman

    A delicious, slow burn of a novel with a subtle and satisfying payoff. This is not a pacey, plot-driven novel. Rather, the characters and Winman's apt observations of nature, art, and the human experience are what kept me reading. The inclusion of lesbian and gay relationships in a casual and romantic way was also a lovely surprise. No tortured self discovery or homophobia here, just love. This was a book I enjoyed examining for its literary style—it was an intellectual experience rather than a t A delicious, slow burn of a novel with a subtle and satisfying payoff. This is not a pacey, plot-driven novel. Rather, the characters and Winman's apt observations of nature, art, and the human experience are what kept me reading. The inclusion of lesbian and gay relationships in a casual and romantic way was also a lovely surprise. No tortured self discovery or homophobia here, just love. This was a book I enjoyed examining for its literary style—it was an intellectual experience rather than a truly immersive read. I particularly liked the narrative structure. The seasons are used to great effect as markers of time and are interspersed with vignettes of plot and character development (or, examples of Still Life!) The symbolism of the globe is particularly poignant, so pay close attention to this. Artworks are used to great effect to explore love, human nature, the role of women in society, and the value and meaning of art itself. There are some meaningful points raised regarding whose artworks we value, whose perspectives are prioritised, whose stories told, and whose are not. This is powerful and interesting but it was also an exercise in patience. If you're not familiar with Art History and the Renaissance then be prepared to Google—I think visualising the artworks is quite key to understanding the meaning of the text. Finally, I relished the use of real historical events as plot points and to develop characters. The flood of 1966 in Florence was unknown to me, and it was a very timely read given the recent devastating floods across Europe. WWII, the London Fog of 1952 and the moon landings also make an appearance. I would hesitate to recommend this book to a lot of readers as I think it is in stark contrast to a lot of the popular and punchy novels out recently. For me, it was a refreshing contrast but I think a lot of readers may find it dense and too slow. If you can persevere, it is a heartwarming, satisfying read, a wonderful antidote to the grim news cycle, and a lovely summer getaway for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere who are unlikely to make it to Italy anytime soon.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Zubs Malik

    We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together Dear Florence, Italy This book is a love letter to you from Sarah. It was rich in your arts, your beauty, and your history and your COLOURS. I will visit you soon. Love, Zubs It is books like this one that ar We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together Dear Florence, Italy This book is a love letter to you from Sarah. It was rich in your arts, your beauty, and your history and your COLOURS. I will visit you soon. Love, Zubs It is books like this one that are worth reading. Books, like this, love letters to its readers paying tribute to those families that are made by choice showing the deepest and truest affirmation of love and respect. Characters that are messy and floored, because real life is messy are written with such depth and personality. I followed each one on their journey and they stayed with me throughout. Their profound connections between one and other, all at different stages in their life come together through a deep bond that forms a friendship that is so profound, it goes against traditional social expectations. Admittedly, a slow burn in certain parts but do not let that put you off – you need those parts to knit it all together. It’s part of the package. The writing is descriptive, with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters so even the slower pages are worth your time. What a beautiful book. Thank you, Sarah, for taking me to Florence, Italy and introducing me to Ulysses Temper and Evelyn Skinner. You can check out more of my bookish content and review on Instagram: @zubscovered

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachael McDiarmid

    I adored this book. I loved it from the start. There is something quite magical about it. Special. A certain brilliance. Of course it helps if you love Italy (Florence) and all things Italian (food, people, history, art). And if you love A ROOM WITH A VIEW on top of that, well, what can I say!? You simply must drop everything and get hold of this book. I dare say this will be THE book for me for 2021. I can’t recommend it enough. Divine. Wonderful. An absolute joy.

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