Posted in Book Reviews

Early One Morning: Virginia Baily

image001SYNOPSIS:In 1943, at dawn on a street in the Jewish ghetto of Nazi-occupied Rome, a woman makes a chance decision with her heart that her head will wrestle with for the rest of her life.
Chiara Ravello is single, with a sister who needs her constant care due to severe epilepsy. While walking one morning she locks eyes with a woman being herded onto a truck bound for the concentration camp with her family. Claiming the woman’s young son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands that he be given to her; only as the truck departs does she realize what she’s done.
Following the characters from war-torn 1940s Rome through the jazz-fueled nights of the 1950s, and ending up in 1970s Rome and Wales, these characters with intersecting lives struggle with identity in ways that are unique but also overlap due to circumstances both chosen and accidental. Gradually we learn of the havoc wreaked on Chiara’s world by the boy she rescued, and of how he eventually broke her heart. When she receives a call from a teenage girl claiming to be Daniele’s daughter, Chiara must accept that the time has come to face up to the past.
‘Early One Morning’ has an intriguing plot. Reading about the atrocities committed by heartless SS soldiers is never easy, but so many compelling fiction & non-fiction works have resulted from this time period. Unfortunately, for me, this one fell flat.
Initially, I was hooked. The beginning chapters are fantastic as we learn of Daniele & Chiara’s initial interactions. As the novel progressed, it’s twists & turns became clustered & confusing. I’ve stated many times that switching between characters and/or time periods can be tricky. This novel proves this theory.
While the novel jumps decades back & forth, it would have suited readers to have that noted. At times, there’s very little difference between Chiara ‘past’ & Chiara ‘present’. Quite a few times, I had to back track to reconcile the difference. Readers are left to wonder about Daniele & his life post trauma as we instead read about Chiara’s social outings & life. Perhaps adding a note at each time change or starting at the beginning & going in a more chronological fashion would have made the plot clearer.
I had high hopes that this would be a home run WWII-era novel. But, the lack of clarity ruined it for me. With such inventive main characters & a very exciting plot idea, it should have been a 5 star novel. Instead, I have to give it 3.
‘Early One Morning’, originally released in the UK is available in the US on 9/29. As always, I encourage you to try it for yourself & form your own opinion.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

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