A passionate and poignant story from Pamela Hart, ‘A Letter from Italy’. This months read is thoughtful, romantic and will get you itching to travel to Italy.
In this book by Pamela Hart, we go back in time to WWI and follow Rebecca Quinn, a war correspondent living in a small town in Italy. The book is inspired by the life of the world’s first woman war correspondent, Australia’s Louise Mack. At the height of the war, Rebecca our protagonist has given up the safety of her Sydney home for the bloody battlefields of Europe, following her journalist husband to the frontline as a war correspondent.
Reporting the horrors of the Italian campaign, Rebecca finds herself thrown together with American-born Italian photographer Alessandro Panucci, and soon discovers another battleground every bit as dangerous and unpredictable: the human heart.
During WW1 hemlines rose in a practical response to material shortages. However, not everyone viewed the change pragmatically. In this extract, Rebecca debates whether to write a fashion story even although she would much rather be chasing down a war story but the military wouldn’t allow women into their briefings.
‘It was days like today that made Rebecca long for Sydney, where even in winter the sky was a deep cobalt blue. It would be summer there, now, and her friends would be at the beach, surf-shooting, or sailing on the harbour, or gathering up a picnic after work and heading for Bondi beach, to sit and watch that huge semi-circle of sand and sea glow in the twilight. She sat back in her armchair and looked out the window at the steel grey sky and the slanting rain.
Siesta, even in winter, was the norm, so she had come back to her room to rest. The Italians seemed to ignore the clock, except the Angelus bell. She respected the custom, but she hadn’t quite adjusted to lazing around in the middle of the day.
She considered using the time to write a story about Italian fashions – a woman journalist could always write a story about hemline lengths – which brought to mind her rant to Jack about hemlines, back in 1915.
‘The world is in the middle of war, and some people are still obsessed about seeing a woman’s ankles!’
He had laughed, sitting cross-legged by the fire on the Turkish rug his parents had given them. ‘Calm down, sweetheart! I can think of a few times I’ve been obsessed with a woman’s ankles,’ he said. He reached out and pulled her down with him, kissing her deeply and running his hand down her leg until he cupped her ankle. ‘This one, for example.’
She’d kissed him back, a little frustrated that he wouldn’t take her seriously but, as always, delighted by the touch and taste of him.
‘Besides,’ he said, letting her pull back and settling her more comfortably in his lap, ‘just think about it. For thousands of years high-status women have kept their limbs swathed. Thousands of years, back beyond recorded history. It was the one sign of civilisation you could count on. And then, suddenly, in a matter of months, the skirts went up. When the men first went away to war, the skirts were down to the top of the shoe. Now, the injured are coming home to find their wives and sisters wearing skirts only a prostitute would have been seen in when they left. It’s no wonder they have trouble adjusting!’
This was what she loved about him: the quick mind, the understanding – and the knowledge that let him take a long view of history. She kissed him again, lingeringly.
‘I just wish they didn’t want me to write about it.’
‘Yes, you’re better than that.’ He kissed her again, and she sank into his arms with enthusiasm, warmed by his belief.
How she wished he would come back – or at least send word of where he was, what he was doing. That he was safe.’
Extracted from A Letter from Italy written by Pamela Hart and published by Hachette New Zealand on 14 March in paperback, ebook and audio.
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JOIN THE BOOK CLUB – ANYONE CAN JOIN!
Once you’ve finished reading the A Letter from Italy, join our conversation! We’ve listed 4 questions below that you can answer. Anyone is able to participate by commenting on this blog post, or by using the hashtag #easyezireads on social media.
Book Club Questions:
1. How would you react if you were in the same situation as Rebecca? Would you steer clear of Sandro or put your heart into it?
2. Were there any passages that struck you as insightful or profound?
3. How well did the author convey the era? Did the storyline change your opinion of WWI in Italy? How?
4. The treatment of women has changed over the years. How did you feel when you read about how Rebecca was treated in the book?
5. Was the ending satisfying for you?
Let us know what you thought of ‘A Letter from Italy’ by Pamela Hart in the comments below or comment on social media with the hashtag #easyezireads
Are you looking for more books to read? Check out our previous Easy Reads Book Club books here.
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