Sunday, March 04, 2012

Last Train from Liguria

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.


  1. Hello Jerry
    I have just downloaded the first chapter of the book and will let you know what I think!

    1. Greetings Barnaby

      The first chapter strangely is a little out of sync with the
      remainder of the book as its violent episode in Ireland is no scene setter. I hope however that you persevere and read the rest.

  2. I agree with what you say about the first chapter, Jerry, butwas enthralled by the second one. Will definitely download. Thanks!


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