Still Life by Sarah Winman – post-war novel set in Florence & the East End

I was recommended this book by one of our followers on Instagram. She said it was, “the best book I read last year.”

I had previously read Tin Man (review HERE) written by Sarah Winman and had found her writing so emotive so I was so happy to be recommended this newest book of hers.

Having just finished Still Life I am bereft. I felt so much part of this ‘family’ of misfits and friends whose story ranges from the piazzas of the beautiful city of Florence to the smog of London’s East End. I knew them and when one of them dies I actually found myself shedding a tear.

To be infused with all the city has to offer and has offered over the centuries? Our purpose revealing itself like the slow unfolding of an iris flower.

Extract from Still Life

The story begins in 1944 when in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

As with previous books by Sarah Winman she manages to embrace friendship, love and sexuality in all forms and always in the most delicate of descriptions. There is a child, ‘Kid’, in the mix whose upbringing by this group of friends is unusual and yet is refreshingly acceptable redefining the meaning of ‘family’. Sarah Winham just understands people, their many layers and how they each contribute to the fabric of life.

The author also has great knowledge of Florence and its art. Her descriptive writing reads more richly than any travel guide and you feel as if you are standing in front of the piece that she is describing.

It is a book so full of riches and charm and it is both moving and funny. It was a good way to start the New Year.

  • THE INSTANT SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
  • WINNER OF DYMOCKS BOOK OF THE YEAR
  • A GUARDIAN BEST BOOK OF 2021
  • A BBC BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOK CLUB PICK
  • WINNER OF THE INWORDS LITERARY AWARD