At the beginning of the month I spent a couple of sunny days, relaxing in my garden and reading an historical novel written by my friend and fellow ‘Wight Writer’, Anne Lewington. I was already familiar with the basic story of ‘Immortali’, having listened, with interest, as Anne read her draft to the group .
Trying to describe, in words, what you can clearly see in your mind is such a tricky business that I question why any rational being would do it. But reading what you’ve written, out loud to a critical audience, can be a useful exercise – as long as your ego can take it. The listener might imagine quite a different picture; pounce on simple mistakes you’ve overlooked. There might be laughter where no joke was intended; a negative response to a scene you’re particularly proud of, ‘nit-picking’ comments about grammar and structure – even suggestions that you alter the plot. I’ve heard that Diana Doubtfire, who founded the group, likened this experience to ‘murdering your darlings’, which just about sums it up.
Nevertheless, Anne was brave enough to lay her embryonic script on this judgemental altar; taking comments on board, rewriting and honing each chapter to her satisfaction. And – when she disagreed with a particular suggestion – having the courage to say a firm ‘No!’
Her steadfast commitment has definitely paid off – ‘Immortali’ engaged me completely. As each chapter ended, I was compelled to read on to find out what happened next but – at the same time – I didn’t want the story to end. When I told Anne how much I’d enjoyed her book, she asked if I’d like to review it, which I’m more than happy to do:
Appearing on a New York Times summer list, Anne Lewington’s novel, ‘Immortali’, is well-paced and deceptively easy to read.
It follows a troupe of actors – the ‘Commedia dell Arte’ – as they travel through mediaeval Italy, improvising traditional but unscripted plays wherever they can drum up an audience. While Lewington’s eye for fine detail and historical accuracy transport the reader back to the 16th Century, her use of language and structure give this book a timeless appeal.
Like the modern ‘soap opera’ the author compares it to, ‘Immortali’ draws us into the lives of its’ cast, their interactions exposing the full spectrum of human emotion. Scenes of violence and rejection, jealousy and threat, sadness, anger and pain are tempered by those of compassion, humour, joy, sensual pleasure and unconditional love.
Unusually for a hero, the principal man is arrogant, selfish and even despicable at times. Yet, far from being unlikeable, his presence is so charismatic that we find it surprisingly easy to forgive him his trespasses, time after time. The leading lady is willful but romantically naïve and we relish the tension between these two, as they play out their fates to an unexpected and dazzling conclusion.
The sub-plot meanders through the main action, tantalizingly just out of reach. We think we’re about to unravel its mystery when – distracted by centre-stage drama – we discover that we’ve lost the thread. Dismissing it as unimportant, we’re startled to be fed a new clue to its ultimate purpose. Whereas some strands of the story are comfortingly familiar, this one provokes deeper reflection.
With palette uncliched and economical, Anne Lewington paints each scene of this Renaissance romp so vibrantly that it unfolds before us, as if on film. By the time the final credits roll with most of our questions answered, we are satisfied……yet yearning for more.
‘Immortali’ has all the elements of a cracking read – drama, suspense, unrequited love and romance and a sprinkling of ‘olde worlde’ magic. As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed it! But don’t take my word for it – why not buy it and find out for yourself?
For more information on how you can do this, please visit www.annelewington.co.uk