BLURB: “Puglia, Italy, 1921. Leandro returns home now a rich man with a glamorous American wife, determined to make his mark. But how did he get so wealthy – and what haunts his outwardly exuberant wife? Boyd, quiet English architect, is hired to build Leandro’s dreams. But why is he so afraid of Leandro, and what really happened between them years before, in New York? Clare, Boyd’s diffident wife, is summoned to Puglia with her stepson. At first desperate to leave, she soon finds a compelling reason to stay. Ettore, starving, poor and grieving for his lost fiancee, is too proud to ask his Uncle Leandro to help. Until events conspire to force his hand. Tensions are high as poverty leads veterans of the Great War to the brink of rebellion. And under the burning sky, a reckless love and a violent enmity will bring brutal truths to light…”
REVIEW: As any long-term followers of this blog will know, I am a huge fan of Katherine Webb – I have read all of her novels and each and every one of them has been given a high rating on this blog. This new novel, The Night Falling, is no exception. It took me longer to get into than Webb’s previous works, but once I had gotten into it, I was hooked. This novel mainly focuses on the stories of Ettore and Clare. Ettore is an extremely hard working Puglian peasant, struggling to support his sick father, his hotheaded sister and her baby son Iacopo. He is also struggling to deal with the grief and anger he feels after the death of his fiance Livia, who died after becoming the victim of a brutal rape, and is on the hunt for her attacker to exact his revenge. Clare is from the other end of the spectrum, a middle-class Englishwoman who travels to Puglia with her stepson Pip in order to join her husband, Boyd, while he works on creating a new home for the formidable Leandro and his wife Marcie. Clare is restless and uncomfortable in Puglia, fearful of Boyd experiencing another depressive episode and of losing her relationship with Pip, who seems to be growing up much faster than she might like. Underlying the tales of these two very different people – who will eventually become lovers – is a class war that has been rife for decades, with the poor working in hard, laborious jobs under the rich, exploitative masters, including Ettore’s enemy the sadistic Ludo Manzo. This class struggle can sometimes make the book very distressing to read as the lives of the poor are described in harrowing detail and the farm environments made to seem harsh and hostile places; I was also particularly upset when reading any of the parts that mentioned how the masters treated animals, as I always find it difficult to read of animals being harmed in any way. Yet, the fact that Webb is unafraid to deal with the harsh realities of the period makes the book, and her writing itself, all the more admirable. We can picture the environment so well that we are almost made to feel part of it, and we suffer alongside the characters in the book, all of whom are written so well that they seem almost to leap from the page. The last hundred or so pages of the book offer so many twists and turns, uncovering past mysteries as well as revealing unexpected truths of the present storyline, and I simply couldn’t put it down. This is yet another brilliant novel from Webb and I can’t wait to read more!