When Diana Bailey arrives on set to begin work as a historical advisor, tensions are running high. The film is in financial crisis and a media storm is brewing over the Taylor-Burton relationship.
As Diana adjusts to a new life away from her troubled marriage, she strikes up a close friendship with Helen, a young make-up artist, and seeks solace in Ernesto, a charismatic member of the film crew. But Helen is harbouring a dark secret of her own, one that will affect Diana in more ways than she could ever imagine…
Set in Rome during the filming of the 1963 film Cleopatra, The Affair is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at one of the most expensive movies of all time. This book is filled with passion and 60′s glamour and if you’re a fan of shows like Mad Men then The Affair should be on your must read list.
As with her last novel (based around the Titanic story), Gill Paul has taken historical fact and woven it into a very personal story. Diana Bailey is an historical expert in the life of Cleopatra and as the book opens she is offered the role of historical advisor on the film with an all expenses paid six month stay in Rome included so that she can be on hand as the filming takes place.
Gill Paul has certainly done her research and I was so wrapped up in the world that she created that I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t real! Her descriptions feel very authentic and there is a wonderful level of everyday detail in the book along with fascinating facts about the film, fashions and sights of Rome at the time.
This is an era that really interests me as in many ways the world was opening up (particularly to educated women like Diana) but traditional values and attitudes still held firm. Freedoms that I take for granted are hard fought and I thought Gill Paul really captured the moment in Diana’s character as she tries to balance the lure of a once in a lifetime opportunity with her duty as a wife and takes a huge risk with her relationship to follow her heart.
Diana’s experiences in Rome are a real eye opener for her as a character and surprised me as a reader! I didn’t know much about the filming of Cleopatra or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and their relationship when I started reading and I was fascinated by the details of their affair and life on the movie set in Rome. But although this is a novel about a very famous affair, that story almost takes back seat to the dramas of Diana’s own life as she settles into her new role. I really enjoyed the parallels between the the love stories in the book and I thought Diana’s contact with Elizabeth was very well done and believable.
I love the way Gill Paul winds supporting stories, sub-plots and minor characters into the bigger narrative of her novels and The Affair is cleverly plotted as we see the Hollywood spectacle from the other side through the eyes of young journalist Scott and an altogether darker side to the story through make-up artist Helen. I would never have guessed that the story would take the twists and turns that it did and the sense that anything could happen made this a real page turner for me.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Cleopatra and this novel has definitely made me want to watch the film! The Affair is a brilliant and passionate read that will transport you to a different era and have you on the edge of your seat as the tension rises. Perfect for fans of historical fiction, classic Hollywood movies and great love affairs!
With thanks to Becke at Avon for sending me a review copy of this novel.