Early One Morning
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.
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 and Circling the Sun)
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 novel (Jason Hewitt, author of The Dynamite Room)
A real treat: a beautifully written account of the long consequences of war, set in a richly evoked Roman of the 1970s (Philip Hensher Observer)
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)
A powerfully moving tale of war's reverberations (Prima)
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 (Daily Express)
A moving assertion of the power of maternal love to overcome unimaginable obstacles (Sunday Times)
Virginia Baily pulls off a triumph with an exquisitely rendered novel that explores how one powerful and unexpected love can shape a life forever (Herald)
As gripping as any thriller . . . 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 (Daily Mail)
This is Virginia Baily's second novel. Her first, Africa Junction (Harvill Secker), 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.