|20 March 2015|
Love. Passion. An incredible legacy
Two women separated by time, experience the beautiful city of Pisa in a story which abounds with duplicity, passion and the temptation of marital infidelity. In 1999, Sam reacts to the news of her husband, Michael’s infidelity with sadness and confusion, which is made all the more poignant by discovering her husband has been taken seriously ill whilst making a documentary film about the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa.
In twelfth century Pisa, Berta di Bernardo is the young, pampered wife of a rich merchant, who becomes enamoured by Geraldo, a young mason employed to work on Pisa’s new campanile. Berta’s unusual interest in the complexities of the campanile’s architecture and of the internal politics connected with its construction make for fascinating reading.
What then follows is a cleverly researched and well written story which succeeds in bringing both the past and present to life. The clear distinctions between time frames allow the stunning city of Pisa to come gloriously alive, and whether walking its medieval streets in the company of Berta and her maid, Aurelia, or watching Sam pick up ice cold frappes and shopping for clothes in the modern day piazzas, the sense of time and place is authentic and really rather beautiful.
There is no doubt that this is a commendable debut novel. The author has a real gift for storytelling and by using her own experiences of modern day Pisa, she allows Sam and Michael’s very modern marriage dilemma to be played out with an authenticity which is both poignant and thought provoking. And yet for me, the real heart and soul of the novel was played out in the thoughts and feelings evoked by the twelfth century protagonists and of the constrictions placed on women. Keeping company with Berta and Aurelia as they go about their daily business made for compelling reading and certainly kept me turning the pages long into the night to see just how their story would play out.
Pisa, both past and present comes alive with a lovely authenticity and the story sits comfortably within its dual time frame. I am sure Secrets of the Tower will appeal to historical fiction fans everywhere, and it’s certainly a book to load onto a reading device should you be heading to Italy on holiday.
My thanks to Netgalley and Kim Nash at Bookouture for my ecopy