Still Life by Sarah Winman

Remember Sarah Winman from When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man? She's back with a gentle read set over four decades with big, memorable characters. Food, Florence, family, fate, art, a devastating flood, adventure, grief, taking a leap of faith, a Shakespearean parrot and the ghost of E.M. Forster. Still Life is about love in its many forms – love of a place like Florence and of its art, romantic love as well as the binding love for those who you chose to be your family.

Tuscany, 1944: As Allied troops advance and bombs fall around deserted villages, a young English soldier, Ulysses Temper, finds himself in the wine cellar of a deserted villa. There, he has a chance encounter with Evelyn Skinner, a sexagenarian art historian who has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive memories of the time she encountered E.M.Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian chamber maid in a particular room with a view. Amongst the rubble of war-torn Italy, Ulysses finds a kindred spirit in Evelyn which sets him off on a course of events that will shape his life - and the lives of those who love him - for the next four decades.

Beautifully written, Still Life is tender and heart-breaking in parts and hilarious and whimsical in others - a sweeping portrait of unforgettable individuals who come together to make a family, a celebration of beauty and love in all its forms. It's a joy!