I had not previously heard of the author Christine Dwyer Hickey. Such descriptions as "best selling Irish novelist" or even "best selling female author" are often off putting if all one is looking for is a good read irrespective of the gender or nationality of the author so normally I would have not have given the book a chance. However when the price of Kindle edition was reduced to 99p for one day, it seemed worth a try.
The story takes one through Dublin, London, France (momentarily) and Liguria in N.W Italy and back, spanning two or is it three, generations, covers some pre WWII continental European atmospheres and ends in a fashion, in the 1990s. The 'ending' provokes one to think back a bit to fathom whether assumptions as to genealogy of the characters and people she has created in the preceding pages are after all correct.
The author's use of the English language is brilliant eg:
"Blackshirts all over the platform. Polizia di Frontiera with their guns to their shoulders. Small groups of people being led this way or that. There is a long low flat-roofed building parallel to the train where officials pass in and out. Through one of its windows she sees the open mouth of a suitcase, hands rummaging through. Further down the building the queue bends through an open door. The train comes to a complete stop and a line of officials approaches, then divides into shorter lines to stand before each door. Bella feels the carriage rock as they climb on..."
Christine Hickey uses the language to instill a sense of atmosphere to the reader like a skillful artist uses paint to depict scenes for the viewer. The atmosphere she portrays in the section of the book quoted from above for example, is one of tension increasing to fear of impending disaster, with the backdrop of Italy under Mussolini and WII having previously become bleaker and blacker by the paragraph. Her portrayal of life in Italy at that time both before and during the period when Fascism and anti-semitism begin to make their inhumanity impinge on ordinary people's lives, may or may not mirror historical fact but certainly for the reader her descriptions seem vividly real.
There is thankfully none of the syccarinic or nationalistic writing about the author's home country that one sometimes associates with authors described by their birthplace and the sections of her tale dipping into and out of Ireland are simply part of the intricate patchwork of the whole.
An absorbing read by an author who I surmise will in years to come, be better known than she is today - if "Last Train from Liguria" is any fair yardstick then she certainly should be.