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Meet the author: Sarah Winman

September 25th 2021

Sarah Winman’s style shines through loudly and brightly in this novel packed with personality, Still Life. Her style is undoubtedly marmite but those who love it will really love it.

From the smoggy streets of the East End to hills of Tuscany and the piazzas of Florence, Winman perfectly captures the atmosphere of place and time. Her characters burst off the page and the rat-a-tat of their conversation reads at times like the vibrant lines of a play. There’s incredible romance in the story, which is at times funny, nostalgic and heart-rending. Comes highly recommended from us at LoveMyRead as a flamboyant, escapist read for fans of E M Forster and Italian art.

We caught up with the author to find out more.

Author’s note

Hello, I’m Sarah Winman, the writer of Still Life.

The story starts in 1944 on a Tuscan roadside with an unexpected meeting between an ageing art Historian Evelyn Skinner and a young globemaker and soldier Ulysses Temper. The narrative moves from Tuscany to London’s East End and back to Florence. It spans four decades, has multiple characters and is about love and art, friendship and extended families, beauty, and always the ghost of E.M Forster.

I’m so thrilled that Love My Read are championing my book and have included me in their subscription service. Thank you!

Q&A

What type of person do you hope reads your book?

Someone who’s been bruised by the damage of the last couple of years and who might need to believe again in the goodness of people and a beautiful world.

What's the most unexpected thing you learnt while writing the book?

How much I enjoyed research.

What's your favourite first line in literature?

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance agent promised to fly from Mercy to the other side of Lake Superior at three ‘o’clock.

(It means I have Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon open in my hands once again).

Is there one book you wished you'd written? Why?

I’m pretty enamoured with the book I’ve just mentioned above. Or it would have to be Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s beautifully written. Emotional. Sublime. It’s brilliance never fades.

What are you working on next?

I’m not working on anything right now. I’m taking a long period of creative recuperation! Reading lots and watching films.

Extract

Somewhere in the Tuscan hills, two English spinsters, Evelyn Skinner and a Margaret someone, were eating a late lunch on the terrace of a modest albergo. It was the second of August. A beautiful summer’s day, if only you could forget there was a war on. One sat in shade, the other in light, due to the angle of the sun and the vine-strewn trellis overhead. They were served a reduced menu but celebrated the Allied advance with large glasses of Chianti. Overhead, a low-flying bomber cast them momentarily in shadow. They picked up their binoculars and studied the markings. Ours, they said, and waved.

This rabbit’s delicious, said Evelyn and she caught the eye of the proprietor, who was smoking by the doorway. She said, Coniglio buonis-simo, signore!

The signore put his cigarette in his mouth and raised his arm – part salute, part wave, one couldn’t be sure.

Do you think he’s a Fascist? said Margaret quietly. No, I don’t think so, said Evelyn. Although Italians are quite indecisive politically. Always have been.

I heard they’re shooting them now, the Fascists.

Everyone’s shooting everyone, said Evelyn.

A shell screamed to their right and exploded on a distant hill, uprooting a cluster of small cypress trees.

One of theirs, said Margaret and she held on to the table to protect her camera and wine glass from the shock waves.

I heard they found the Botticelli, said Evelyn.

Which one? said Margaret.

Primavera.

Oh, thank God, said Margaret.

And Giotto’s Madonna from the Uffizi. Rubens’ Nymphs and Satyrs and one more – Evelyn thought hard – Ah, yes, she said. Supper at Emmaus.

The Pontormo! Any news about his Deposition?

No, not yet, said Evelyn, pulling a small bone from her mouth.

In the distance, the sky suddenly flared with artillery fire. Evelyn looked up and said, I never thought I’d see this again at my age.

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Happy reading!

Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x


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