Early 1950s, Hal Jacobs has fled England to find his future as a writer in Rome. When a friend cannot make it to a party of a highly-regarded Contessa, Hal takes the invitation and goes there instead. At the door, he is rejected, but the host finds him interesting and ask him to enter. The same evening, he meets a woman whom he will never forget, but she is gone as suddenly as she appeared. Only two years later, when Hal has accepted a job with the Contessa, he will meet her again. To promote a film project, the actors as well as other staff will sail the French-Italian coast and stop over from time to time. Hal is asked to accompany them and to write about the trip. When he meets Stella, he is struck, but the presence of her husband makes it difficult for him to approach her. Yet, their former meeting is not the only secret on board.
Lucy Foley sends us back into the post-war era of Italy. The gap between the rich and the poor is visible everywhere, as are the scars from the war-time. Everybody has made their traumatising experiences and wants to bury them. However, some things are not as easy to forget as others. It is this specific ghost that the author awakes in the characters and manages to portray in a convincing way. The atmosphere of this time and place can well be felt throughout the novel. The setting is one of the strongest points for me. The characters are also interestingly drawn, especially Stella with her slowly unfolding past can lead through the novel. But also the male characters, especially when Stella’s husband realises Hal’s interest in his wife become more and more interesting.
All in all, a journey back into the past which profits from the author’s capacity of creating a stunning setting for an unusual love story.