Sunday, October 4, 2015

#MMBBR Showcase: Early One Morning by Virginia Baily @GinnyBaily

In 1943, at dawn on a street in the Jewish ghetto of Nazi-occupied Rome, a woman makes a chance decision with her heart that her head will wrestle with for the rest of her life.

Chiara Ravello is single, with a sister who needs her constant care due to severe epilepsy. While walking one morning she locks eyes with a woman being herded onto a truck bound for the concentration camp with her family. Claiming the woman’s young son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands that he be given to her; only as the truck departs does she realize what she’s done. 

Following the characters from war-torn 1940s Rome through the jazz-fueled nights of the 1950s, and ending up in 1970s Rome and Wales, these characters with intersecting lives struggle with identity in ways that are unique but also overlap due to circumstances both chosen and accidental. Gradually we learn of the havoc wreaked on Chiara’s world by the boy she rescued, and of how he eventually broke her heart. When she receives a call from a teenage girl claiming to be Daniele’s daughter, Chiara must accept that the time has come to face up to the past.

Image result for Virginia BailyVirginia Baily is the author of two novels: Early One Morning and Africa Junction, which won the McKitterick prize in 2012. She holds a PhD and MA in English from the University of Exeter. She founded and co-edits Riptide, a short-story journal. She is also the editor of the political series of the Africa Research Bulletin. She lives in Exeter, Devon.

Follow Virginia on Twitter: @GinnyBaily

In EARLY ONE MORNING (Little, Brown and Company, September 29, 2015), Virginia Baily has written a gorgeous novel exploring—through a split-second decision that forever changes the lives of all involved—the nature of identity and belonging, the redemptive power of love, and how one develops a sense of self when everything that defines one has been taken away. 

Advance praise for EARLY ONE MORNING:

“A real treat; a beautifully written account of the long consequences of war, set in a richly evoked Rome of the 1970s.”—Philip Hensher, Guardian (UK)

“As gripping as any thriller…. [and] crammed with the sort of heart-stopping, heart-breaking scenes that brought a lump to the throat of even this jaded reviewer. Really, really good.”—Harry Ritchie, Daily Mail (UK)

“A moving assertion of the power of maternal love to overcome unimaginable obstacles.”—Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times (UK)

“A fresh approach to this well-worn period.”—Julie McDowall, Independent (UK)

“A powerful story of sacrifice, despair and ultimately redemption.”—Eithne Farry, Express Online (UK)


“A compelling tale about people seeking to define themselves against the tumult of history.”—Clare Allfree, Metro (UK)


“A powerful tale of the reverberations of one woman’s decision to save a child.”Stylist (UK)


“Baily subtly tugs at your heartstrings and by the end of her novel you’re likely to be as desperate as the women in Daniele’s life to discover his fate.” —Sophie Donnelly, Express (UK)

Early One Morning isn’t just an incandescent novel, but the rarest of reading experiences, offering a view both wrenching and luminous of how love pushes us past what we’re capable of, and somehow—impossibly—reclaims us when we’re long past saving. Utterly magnificent.”―Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

“From the broken Jewish ghetto and dusky countryside of occupied Italy during WWII to the bustling Trastevere cafes of Rome in the 1970s, Virginia Baily offers an affecting contemplation of the past, personal identity, and the complexity and diversity of human bonds. Early One Morning is the sort of book you can’t put down and then stays with you, like the best of journeys, long after it’s finished.”―Anne Korkeakivi, author of An Unexpected Guest

Early One Morning heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in fiction, with a story that is instantly engaging, and characters that effortlessly lift from the page and are rendered so rich and full that they wrap themselves around you and refuse to let go. Beautifully written and emotionally taut, Virginia Baily’s Early One Morning is a powerhouse of a debut.”―Jason Hewitt, author of The Dynamite Room

“Wonderful.... I was completely inside it from the first pages, just that delicious (rare) feeling of knowing you’re in safe hands, this writer isn’t going to make a mess of anything, or forfeit your trust or your belief. It managed to be so witty and dry and true.... Vividly intelligent, gripping and moving and alive.”―Tessa Hadley, author of Clever Girl

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. Anything can spark a story – the way someone turns their heard, an overheard remark, how the light catches a blade of grass, an article in the newspaper, a street corner and a curiosity about what may lie beyond it...   For me inspiration seems to come from a pulling together of several disparate but intriguing notions until they coalesce and start to offer a doorway through to an alternative, invented world.  If I have a place, an object (an actual physical thing) and a character, I am on my way.  For ‘Early One Morning’ these three were Rome, a trumpet and a child who did not ask to be rescued.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

A. I think it is that moment of coalescence when the doorway to the fictional world opens and I can feel my imagination start to soar.  It’s like holding a kite as it dances in the wind.  But the other lovely thing, loveliest of things, is that you get to share this wonder with your readers.  

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?

A. Not faltering and losing faith.  A novel is such a big and unwieldy thing, it’s difficult sometimes to hold onto the whole of it, find its shape and meaning. You can easily get bogged down, or go off at tangents and lose your way. Another thing that is hard is getting over yourself – not letting self-doubt, or its other face, ego, get in the way.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A. Sometimes I like to imagine my life as a tractor driver – a simple life close to the earth and the elements…   
And in a parallel universe I would definitely have been a dancer.
But in reality, I would probably go on being what I still am: a translator / language teacher / editor.  

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

Late to the Party
(but not too late to dance)

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. I have to go with Jane Eyre.  There is no other book I have read eight times.  A re-read is overdue I think. It’s the trammelled passion of it, the depiction of the times, the characterisation, the relationships, the triumphing over adversity, and, above all the immense magnetism between Jane and Rochester. The moment when she is alone on the wild moors, wrestling with her conscience, and she hears his voice calling her… It gets me every time.

Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. When I first read Jane Eyre, I identified strongly with the child Jane – with her capacity for love, her defiance, her strong will, but then, as the book progresses and she chooses destitution rather than being with the man she loves, we start to part company.  I fear I have more in common with mad wild Bertha in the attic!

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A. Maria - her experience of going to Rome for the first time at the age of 16 and falling in love with the city mirrors my own. She’s a faster learner than I was though.  She picks up Italian over the course of one summer but it took me years!

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. I would like to go to Narnia please, to ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ but after endless winter has been banished.  I would enter via the wardrobe and would go for tea with the faun, Mr Tumnus and perhaps share a picnic with the dryads and ride a centaur.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Spring. I love the very beginning of spring when the first buds appear.  I adore those first buds, the promise in them. The sense of new beginnings, things opening out. Everything is possible, immanent.
I find the onset of fall harder with each passing year.  The sense of decay, of time running out.  I come down hard on any berry that dares to ripen, or any leaf that dares to change colour ahead of time. They smite me, such autumnal signs. Once we are into the autumn season proper and I have got over myself, I love the time of mists and mellow fruitfulness too, but the transition is hard.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. I am a very visual writer – I have images in my head all the time when I am writing - but the task of coming up with one image that conveys something essential about the book would be beyond me. I have had three covers so far – two for the two different editions of my first novel ‘Africa Junction’ and now one for ‘Early One Morning’ and with each of them, when the publishers have shown me their ideas, I have thought ‘Wow, Yes! You’ve got it!’

I think the cover of ‘Early One Morning’ is wonderful.  It glows, it captures something about the relationship between Chiara Ravello and the child Daniele which is at the heart of the story, it evokes Rome and it invites the reader in.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

On a pre-publication bookstore tour in England, I was a bit disconcerted when Peter, the store manager at a particular branch of a large bookshop chain in a town in the north of England, was absent.  Not only was he not there to meet me, as arranged, but he had failed to notify any of his staff that I was coming.  I made the best of it, told the busy, distracted staff about my book anyway and left a galley for him.  I then went for lunch and wandered about the unknown town. Walking a different route back to the train station, I happened upon another branch of the chain. I didn’t have any galleys left or much time before my train but popped in anyway. A man called Peter greeted me and shook me warmly by the hand.  ‘We thought you weren’t coming!’ he said. He had even made tea and bought a cake!

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes. I have started a new novel and am delighted that one of the characters from ‘Early One Morning’ is coming with me. At the moment the object of my attention (see the answer to the first question above) is an old-fashioned set of kitchen scales.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  I hope that you read my book, that you enjoy it and get something worthwhile from it.

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