5★ A beautifully crafted story that kept me turning the pages
Amy came to Rome to sell the apartment bequeathed to her mother by Marco Giordanni, but a sense of connection causes her to change her plans and stay on. This decision will define her life as she falls in love with the ancient city and the enigmatic Davide. Like the glimpsed shadow of a grey cat, the tale of her mother’s youthful romance weaves across Amy’s path and gradually reveals its poignant ending.
The story evolves through a subtle interplay of shadows cast by decisions taken and those avoided, a candle carried for an old affair, and the harmful demands of family. Caroline and Marco’s love is crushed by the will of his narcissistic and unyielding mother, and the joy of their early days can never be regained. Amy, in the present, is troubled by the mystery of Davide’s mysterious career and his extended trips to Naples. Through Amy's calls home we meet Caroline as mother, a benign but forceful personality, away from whom Amy must forge her own path. During Davide’s longest absence yet, Amy considers her dilemma as she is asked by her friend Paolo, ‘What are you willing to lose if you stay here?’
At a time when I have been longing to travel, this sensory feast of a book sets me down in Rome and conjures the sights and sounds of the city around me. I can hear the language ringing in my ears as I sit at a pavement table of a trattoria eating something delicious with a glass of good wine. I am taken to the places that only a Roman would know. A powerful sense of history pervades the story, through the characters’ lives, and the ancient city and its saints and traditions.
The characters are deeply wrought and nuanced, so that I could sympathise with Caroline’s treatment of Marco and deplore it at the same time. The supporting characters too are all lovingly and cleverly drawn: the two priests, the Nanninis, Amy’s fellow market stall holders and the women at the cat sanctuary. I especially loved the gattara Concetta. I am delighted that there is a word in Italian for a crazy cat lady!
This beautifully crafted story unfolds gently, with a gradual uncovering of plot and motives. I have been pulled along by the characters and their stories, as layers of intrigue and insight kept me turning the pages. The author has allowed a few shadows to remain, so that at the end there is still some mystery, and still hope. I have been so thoroughly engrossed in this book that, on reading the last page, I am already missing the characters.