Puglia, 1921. Leandro Cardetta, born into poverty, emigrated to America to make his fortune and has returned home to southern Italy a rich man, accompanied by his glamorous wife, Marcie, an ex-showgirl fighting middle age. Now Leandro has money enough to hire renowned English architect, Boyd Kinsgley, to renovate a crumbling palazzo into an Art Deco statement of wealth, and host Boyd’s teenage son and his diffident young second wife, Clare, for one extraordinary summer.
Under the burning sky, beyond the luxury of Leandro’s home, tensions are high. Veterans of the Great War are desperate for work and food. Among these is Ettore, Leandro’s nephew. Gripped by grief at the loss of his fiance, Ettore has sworn to identify Livia’s killer, and take his revenge. He is too proud to go to his uncle for charity, but when he injures himself one day, he has no choice but to knock on Leandro’s door. Meeting Clare there will change everything – and in the most violent way.
During the fierce summer of 1921, all these lives converge. Exactly how did Leandro grow rich in America, and what is the strange hold he has over Boyd? What happened to the first Mrs Kingsley, and what secret haunts the outwardly exuberant Marcie Cardetta? Hearts will be broken, blood will be spilt and the hardest of life’s lessons will be learnt as shadows fall.
The Night Falling is a vivid and dramatic historical novel from international bestseller Katherine Webb. Set in Italy in 1921 it follows the fortunes of two families during a single summer as Clare Kingsley travels to Puglia to spend time with her architect husband at the wealthy estate of Leandro Cardetta and finds herself surrounded by tension and secrets.
This is a well written novel and Katherine shows wonderful attention to detail particularly when evoking the poverty stricken lives of families trying to make ends meet in the aftermath of the First World War. I thought both surroundings and emotions were captured brilliantly as we meet Leandro’s nephew Ettore and his starving family and the reader is shown the hardships faced by young and old in shocking detail which makes the contrast with the wealth of Leandro and his wife even more stark.
Broken into several parts and narrated alternately from Clare and Ettore’s viewpoints, the air of tension is set from the novel’s opening which begins ‘Afterwards’ and sees Clare reflecting on her future and then steps back to her arrival in Italy. It soon becomes clear that the tensions are not simply a case of rich versus poor as the reader is slowly made aware of a host of resentments and mysteries bubbling under both Clare and Ettore’s lives.
I enjoyed the way that Katherine gave small hints that underneath the glossy, wealthy surface, all is not well in the Cardetta household nor with Clare and Boyd’s marriage but I did find the pace of the opening a little slow at times. Mysteries abound as Clare, who is Boyd’s second wife tries to find out what happened to the first Mrs Kingsley and finds that Leandro Cardetta has a frightening hold over her husband. On Ettore’s side of the story, there is the question of who is responsible for the death of his beloved fiance. As the summer heat builds, more secrets surface and as Ettore and Clare’s stories collide the scene is set for an explosive set of reveals set against a backdrop of political unrest.
Unusually for me, I found that I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the characters in the novel but I was fascinated by their flaws and the changes that Clare, her stepson Pip and Ettore undergo as the story plays out. Katherine Webb is a talented author and has clearly done her research and isn’t afraid to show the violence of the period – there were a number of scenes in the book that I will not forget easily!
This is the first of Katherine’s books that I’ve read and I’ll definitely read more from her in future – I already have a copy of The Misbegotten waiting on my to read pile!
The Night Falling is released today in Hardback and ebook formats.
I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.