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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Best Book I Have Read This Year

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

Set in Rome, both during the Second World War and in the nineteen seventies, Early One Morning is the story of Chiara Ravello, a young woman, who witnesses the Jews being rounded up and driven away from the Trastevere Ghetto and who, on impulse, persuades the supervising soldiers that a mistake has been made and that one of the children is really her nephew, thereby saving him from the fate to which the rest of his family are consigned.


But this is not another Holocaust story. It is actually concerned with what happens next:  the implications of this terrifying decision for Chiara herself, for her disabled sister Cecilia, for Daniele, the boy she impetuously decided to rescue and, thirty years after the event, for a sixteen year old Welsh girl called Maria whose world is about to be turned upside down by the discovery that she is not the person she has always thought herself to be.


Virginia Bailey's writing is beautifully observed. The evocation of Rome - its sights, smells sounds, even its weather - is extraordinarily vivid. It is the next best thing to actually being there. But what gives this book its compelling emotional core is the story of Chiara's fiercely protective love for the angry, uncommunicative little boy she has adopted. This is the story of parenthood writ large.


Funny, heart-breaking, compassionate, Early One Morning is undoubtedly the best book I have read in 2015 and I suspect the experience of reading it will remain with me for a very long time.