“Still Life” by Sarah Winman

still life

Sometimes a book comes along just when you need it most. That’s why I still have a warm glow from Sarah Winman’s delightful book “Still Life”.

I was listening to Scala Radio’s Book Club when presenter Mark Forrest interviewed the author, and I promptly went out at lunchtime and bought it!

Firenze! Amore mio!

“Still Life” begins in Florence during 1944.

British soldier Ulysses Temper ends up in a ruined wine cellar with sexagenarian and art historian Evelyn Skinner. She has returned to Florence to salvage paintings from the ravages of World War II. A friendship for life is made and the journey begins.

Evelyn’s wisdom and heart means their lives are always intertwined. Even if at times they don’t know it!

What follows is a beautiful story that flits between the East End of London and the Tuscan hills, to beautiful Florence, all over four decades.

The writing style takes a little bit of getting used to at first, as the author uses the omission of speech marks as a way of suggesting immediacy in the story-telling.

I got used to it though, and felt like I was standing beside the wonderful characters as their stories unfolded and crossed over.

In a time of turmoil, sadness and uncertainty in the world, this book reminds us about everything that is good about people.

Friendships, love, humour and . . . a rather wonderful parrot called Claude who is as important to the story as his humans.

Mud Angels

As with every good book, you learn something reading this.

Part of the story takes place during the Florence floods of 1966. This was devastating not only for the inhabitants, but for the priceless artwork and books in their museums and libraries.

Young people travelled to Florence from all over the continent to help save artworks and books from the mud. They were known as “mud angels“. They stayed with local families when the youth hostels filled to capacity, and showed the world what it meant to answer a call to arms.

I really didn’t want this book to end.

The descriptions of wonderful evenings in Florence, the food, the smells and the friendships, made me feel like I was wrapped in a warm Tuscan blanket.

Ho amato questo libro.

Read more book reviews from “The People’s Friend” team here.

Order your copy of “Still Life” on Bookshop.org and support your local bookshops.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!