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
'Utterly beautiful ... filled with hope' Joanna Cannon
'The sheer joy in Sarah Winman's storytelling is completely infectious.' Graham Norton
From the author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a big-hearted story of people brought together by love, war, art and the ghost of E.M. Forster.
We just need to know what the heart's capable of, Evelyn.
And do you know what it's capable of?
I do. Grace and fury.
1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn's talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses' mind that will shape the trajectory of his life - and of those who love him - for the next four decades.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London's East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
'Four course nourishment for all Winman fans' Patrick Gale
'Readers will want to prolong the pleasure of Sarah Winman's beautiful novel Still Life as long as possible. It is a book to get lost in, the kind of story that bolsters the heart and soul. I loved it.' Donal Ryan
'Extraordinary . . . my book of the year' Liz Nugent