Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

Summary: Two women's decision to save a child during WWII will have powerful reverberations over the years.

Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family.

Claiming the woman's son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge.

Several decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained woman working as a translator. Always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, whose absence and the havoc he wrought on Chiara's world haunt her. Then she receives a phone call from a teenager claiming to be his daughter, and Chiara knows it is time to face up to the past. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: WWII historical fic is a big deal right now. There are tons of books about it, and tons of books with lots of acclaim. I think this is very valid—WWII had a huge impact on the entire world (possibly an understatement, I realize), and I don’t know about you, but I personally know/knew people (like three of my four grandparents) who were involved. So beyond its historical significance, I feel like I have a great personal connection to it and love reading about it. I’ve also really enjoyed the emphasis of women during WWII in much of the recent historical fiction. I’ve read several books of late about women on the home front, women pilots, women serving as part of the resistance, etc., and I think Early One Morning is definitely right in that money spot of what is popular right now.

And it had great potential. It really did. In a lot of ways, it was really great.

First off, I enjoyed the writing. It wasn’t poignantly beautiful or really stylized or anything, but it had a nice flow to it and the descriptions were such that I definitely understood the characters—what they looked like, what they were like, what mannerisms they had, etc. This is a big deal, actually, because if you can’t imagine your characters then it is really hard to fully understand what’s going on in the book. Secondly, I think it had a good story.

But all that being said, there’s a lot of competition in this little historical fiction genre. There have been some remarkable books about women in WWII, and some of them are excellent. Just within the books I’ve reviewed you’ll find the wonderful Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and The Nightingale. Others in the genre are just okay, and of course, some are not that great. Early One Morning is on the higher end of the books in the middle. Here’s why.

While the story was ambitious and had a lot of great elements, it had a hard time coming together. There are three main elements of the story going on, and they don’t start coming together until three fourths of the way through the book. That doesn’t give much time to develop the rest of the story. Because of that, I felt like the end was kind of rushed, especially in the way the individual plots were resolved. It’s not a huge, long book, so I think it could have gone on a little longer and been fine. It had everything it needed to be really interesting—and in some ways it was—but it didn’t deliver to the degree that it could have. I think this may due in part to the author’s inexperience in writing novels. Baily is obviously a talented writer and very experienced in writing short stories (her bio proves this), but I think Early One Morning lent itself to a longer, more fleshed out ending and resolution than Baily was equipped to write. That being said, it’s a good book with realistic-feeling characters. If you are noshing through a ton of WWII historical fic that feature women, this is one you should consider.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is mostly clean and has only mild language. It is on the clean side of the genre. It would be safe for a church book club or other conservative group.

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