The Rome Affair by Karen Swan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan/Pan
Published: 13th July 2017
The glamorous capital city of Italy is brought to startling life in The Rome Affair, a compelling summer novel by Karen Swan.
1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life. Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resist her. At twenty-six, she is already onto her third husband when she meets her love match. But he is the one man she can never have, and all the beauty and money in the world can’t change it.
2017 and Francesca Hackett is living la dolce vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London. When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola. Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.
Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memoirs. As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall. But when a priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.
Firstly, thank you to Pan and Netgalley for my copy in exchange of my honest review. I know they say never judge a book by its cover, but I love this cover. I will be honest, I didn’t even read the description of this book when I requested it for 2 reasons 1- Karen Swan wrote it, I’ve loved the other books I have read and 2- The cover. The title suits this book, and this cover, perfectly.
There are some books in this world which make you love a place even more than you already do. This book is one of them. It has made me fall in love with Rome all over again, making me wanting to visit and experience it all for the first time again. Karen Swan’s writing style immediately dumps you into a place and you instantly wish you were there. Her characters make you feel at home, they become your friends, your family. I feel as though I have lost a friend in the main character, Francesa. Of course, I miss Elena and Nico as well.
Beautifully written, we get to see how the rich and glamourous live. It takes us on a journey of love, loss, heartbreak, and a decades old mystery. It shows us that money isn’t everything and sometimes anyone would do anything for the person that love deeply. Having me hooked from the first few pages, I couldn’t wait to see where Karen Swan took us this time. The book is split between 2 wonderful women, from the 1960s through to 2017.
Through the book we see how Elena/Laney grows from the 16 year old we are introduced to through to the woman that she is when Francesca/Cesca meets her. Both woman are fantastic characters, and in a way polar opposites. Elena oozes wealth, glamour, sophistication and never having to work a day in her life. Cesca lives in vintage clothing, basically living hand to mouth, and then loses her tour guide job. Coincidentally, Elena is there to offer her a job, to write Elena’s memoirs. While she agrees to do the job, Cesca has to face what happened in her past. She finds her own love in Nico, and discovers that Elena’s life wasn’t completely perfect after all.
I feel that Cesca learnt a lot from Elena, and from Nico. I think that she learnt that she wasn’t responsible for her reason for escaping. I also think that she learnt that she should never say no to a chance of love. Elena got her true love after a pretty rough run of it, she lost more than she got throughout her life until she met her true love. On the other hand, I think Elena was grateful for Cesca finally discovering the truth, and for her help coming to terms with everything. Also, I think that the way that Elena was sort of fitting in a way. She done it on her own terms, which she didn’t get to do a lot of. But that’s all I will say about that, I don’t want to give too much away.
With beautiful writing, leaving me with a wish to revisit Rome, and to hold on to my love and my family, I give this book a very well deserved 5/5.