ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- So far, this is my book of the year! Life-affirming, heart-warming, full of joy and warmth and sweetness and poignancy with beautifully realised characters, glorious writing and spot-on observations, this is a book I read slowly to spin out the experience, and when I got to the end, had to go straight back to the beginning to devour all over again!
It starts with Ulysses Temper, born-and-bred working-class Londoner, driving his captain through Italy in 1944. They meet eccentric middle-aged art historian spinster Evelyn Skinner (who is not what she might appear) and together have a night that Ulysses never forgets. He is an optimistic man with a wife back home, and no big ambitions, though he is open to the world. Years later, when the life he thought he would have turns into something unexpected, he finds himself back in Florence, where he makes a new home with an assortment of characters (including a Shakespeare-quoting macaw, a tree-listening handyman and the precociously wise daughter of his wife). Stretching over 35 years, and alternating between Florence and London, with dashes of serendipity, a touch of nonchalant everyday magic, Luck that smiles and fortune that mocks (and an appearance from E M Forster) this is a story where art, music, love and beauty play out their grand themes in ordinary lives and extraordinary moments. Lindy
Sarah Winman grew up in Essex and now lives in London. She attended the Weber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. Her first novel, When God Was a Rabbit was an international bestseller, her second A Year of Marvellous Ways was a Sunday Times bestseller and Tin Man was shortlisted for the Costa Novel award 2018.
'An utterly beautiful story, so generous, rich, deeply moving and filled with hope. Sarah Winman is a genius and one of the greatest storytellers of our time. I remember reading When God Was A Rabbit all those years ago and being in complete awe of her, thinking 'I wonder if I could do this too?', so Sarah Winman is why I write!' Joanna Cannon, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep 'A playful, Maupinesque exploration of the elective family and its possibilities. Four course nourishment for all Winman fans, it harnesses big hearted storytelling to a dizzying historical sweep to celebrate love in all the available colours' Patrick Gale, author of Take Nothing With You 'I loved this extraordinary, astonishing and exquisite novel. The story of damaged characters restored and repaired by the truth and beauty of Tuscany, as Florence itself is restored and repaired post-war and post-flood is beautifully told. A joy and a pleasure, my book of the year' Liz Nugent, author of Little Cruelties 'This book saved my soul during these very strange times. I loved every word, every sentence, every beat. It's about love and our defining moments, and it is utterly beautiful. The characters and places now live in my own memory - to be cherished forever' Favel Parrett, author of Past the Shallows 'A tale of the big moments and small intricacies that make us human and make us love. The happy, the sad, the accidental, the ridiculous and the sublime. I utterly adored it' Simon Savidge, @simonsavidge