Ilaria Bernardini is a prolific, bestselling Italian screenwriter and author of 8 novels, whose latest, Faremo Foresta ('We Will Grow a Forest') was longlisted for Italy's prestigious Strega Prize. She is a Vogue columnist and regular contributor for Rolling Stone and GQ magazines. She co-wrote the late renowned director Bernardo Bertolucci's last film, The Echo Chamber. Based in Milan, she splits her time between there and London.
Bernardini explores loss, love and storytelling in this intimate novel told from Valeria's perspective. A multitude of stories, memories of her meetings with Martin and of the sister, ever present in her mind despite the four decades since her death, are woven through the few weeks Valeria sits for Isla. She's a pleasingly complex character, apparently strong and independent, rejoicing in her cosmopolitan life as an acclaimed short story writer, while in reality riddled with a constant questioning insecurity. It's also a novel about writing - Valeria is a stealer of stories, not above rifling other people's lives even at the risk of being exposed. There's a quiet thread of humour running through Bernardini's novel leavening the loss and hurt - Valeria's over-empathising assistant is a triumph with her adulation and need for hugs - while the question of how much Isla really knows hovers tantalisingly over the last half. Altogether an enjoyable read . . . * alifeinbooks.co.uk * Dizzying . . . astonishing . . . touching . . . stunning * Elle Italia * With a beautiful voice in which the richness of perspective doesn't confuse or disturb the ruthless, sharp, linearity of the narration, in The Portrait, Ilaria Bernardini mostly speaks about braveness . . . The light of The Portrait is perfectly dim at the beginning and slowly, page after page, becomes bright and illuminates powerfully, to the point of blinding us. Ilaria Bernardini constantly tunes that light with wisdom but without giving any consolation. When a narration is that of real literature, it makes it impossible for us to wear glasses behind which to hide. -- Malcom Pagani * Vanity Fair Italia * A stunning pas de deux that is enchanting, thrilling and incredibly moving. * Marie Claire Italia * A fascinating, seductive novel, full of nuance * Grazia Italia * Anguished by the death of her secret lover of 30 years, a woman commissions the man's wife to paint her portrait so that she can be close to his family home and life. As one sits and one paints, things begin to materialise. This English-language debut by Italian bestseller Bernardini has a compelling ring to it. * Irish Independent * As soon as I read The Portrait I bought its rights. I thought it could be an elegant, extremely powerful and moving TV series and that it was right for us. Both the characters of Valeria and Isla - so fascinating and true - propel this exciting story with tenderness, passion, and humour. -- Lorenzo Mieli, Fremantle Media and Wildside CEO, producer of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND and THE YOUNG POPE An electric, impossible-to-put-down novel, Ilaria Bernardini's The Portrait is a brilliantly constructed, wildly astute plunge into the depths of love, rivalry, betrayal and the power of women. -- Bill Clegg (author of DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY) Love a tale of complex women and tragedy? This is a story for you. An internationally renowned writer, Valeria has dedicated her life to her work and to her married lover, Martin. When his sudden stroke makes headlines, her world implodes. Desperate to find a way to be present during his final days, Valeria commissions his artist wife, Isla, to paint her portrait, and insinuating herself into Martin's family home and life. What could go wrong...? * Stylist * Italian novelist Ilaria Bernardini's English language debut is a nuanced exploration of love, grief, deceit and secrets. When well-known businessman Martin has a devastating stroke, his secret lover Valeria Costas formulates a way to be by his bedside during his final days. She commissions Martin's artist wife Isla to paint her portrait, furtively inserting herself into his home, where both women simultaneously struggle to cope while the man they love lies in a coma. This is an affecting story that brings to mind Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels. * Culturefly * A gripping story of love, death, art and deceit, which is also strange, beautiful and deeply original. The Portrait is unlike anything else I've read. -- Sofka Zinovieff, author of PUTNEY