EARLY ONE MORNING
Sunday Times Bestseller.
A grey dawn in 1943: on a street in Rome, two young women, complete strangers to each other, lock eyes for a single moment.
One of the women, Chiara Ravello, is about to flee the occupied city for the safety of her grandparents' house in the hills. The other has been herded on to a truck with her husband and their young children, and will shortly be driven off into the darkness.
In that endless-seeming moment, before she has time to think about what she is doing, Chiara makes a decision that changes her life for ever. Loudly claiming the woman's son as her own nephew, she demands his immediate return; only as the trucks depart does she begin to realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, single, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead of her, and now a child in her charge - a child with no papers who refuses to speak and gives every indication that he will bolt at the first opportunity.
Three decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained, self-possessed woman working as a translator and to all appearances quite content with a life which revolves around work, friends, music and the theatre. But always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, the boy from the truck, whose absence haunts her every moment. Gradually we learn of the havoc wrought on Chiara, her family and her friends by the boy she rescued, and how he eventually broke her heart. And when she receives a phone call from a teenage girl named Maria, claiming to be Daniele's daughter, Chiara knows that it is time for her to face up to the past.
This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful, suspenseful, heartbreaking and inspiring tale of love, loss and war's reverberations down the years.
Praise for Early One Morning
"Fearless, witty and full of flair. A tender love story between woman and child, set during and long after the Nazi occupation of Rome, [Early One Morning] masterfully explores themes of identity, belonging and loss.
At its best, the writing is easy, agile and reminded me of Tessa Hadley, another masterful storyteller. Both writers do a difficult and therefore rare thing: they write apparently simple stories, clearly told, swiftly paced, yet with depth and a frank, bold beauty…Fading, disappearance and loss are key themes – but there is nothing whimsical or melancholic here, even if we are acutely aware of the absence of Daniele’s mother.
It’s a surprisingly humorous novel, in which the characters are tenderly mocked or mock themselves. It’s also defiant. Even as it forces its characters to lose so much, it asserts itself against those losses with vehemence and hope."
"Second-time novelist and acclaimed short-story writer Virginia Baily pulls off a triumph with Early One Morning - an exquisitely rendered novel that explores how one powerful and unexpected love can shape a life forever.
A complex and multi-layered narrative, the novel slips expertly back and forth between two different time periods, following a handful of characters across numerous locations. The settings are beautifully evoked, creating striking contrasts between the tensions and desperation of war-time and the freedom and stability of the 1970s. The characters themselves are a gratifyingly unusual collection - among them a grieving spinster, a damaged little boy, a petulant teenager and a guilt-ridden priest - and each one is imbued with a compelling aliveness that draws us into their orbit.
By turns witty, poignant, tragic and uplifting, this feast of a novel will mark out its author as a powerful voice on the literary scene. 9/10"
Herald - Book of the Week
"Virginia Baily's wonderfully-imagined novel . . . The war years - the journey from Roman and the months spent at the grandmother's - are exceptionally well done . . . Anyone familiar with Rome will delight in following Chiara's movements about the city. She is a true Roman, infuriating and delightful . . . Virginia Baily is a natural novelist [who] cherishes the details of daily life and this gives the novel so much of its vitality, but it is her ability to evoke tangled emotions and present them convincingly that makes her book remarkable."