Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction
Every Time We Say Goodbye Natalie Jenner

By Deirdre Lowney

Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner

This book had me at the cover! I had not previously read any of Natalie Jenner’s earlier books, so this was as much of a trip into the unknown for me as it was for the main character, Vivien, as she swapped her life in 1950s London for a stint as a scriptwriter in Rome. Her reasons for leaving London initially seem to be the result of bad reviews for her newly opened play but there’s a past that she thought she had left in the past and an admirer whose motives she questions as other incentives to move.

The list of characters at the start, both expat and Italian was helpful, and I was glad to refer to these from time to time in the early chapters.

This is no fluffy romance, though – Italy’s efforts to deal with the aftermath of the war can still be felt, ten years on. It also deals with events which some viewers may find upsetting.

In the prologue, we meet the shadowy figure known only as La Scolaretta, later translated into The Schoolgirl Assassin: a brave young Partisan in occupied Rome who will leave her mark on Vivien’s life in more ways than one.

I found myself wanting to know – and not wanting to know – how La Scolaretta fared in her endeavours. I really did not want her to come to harm.  Of course, I also did not want Vivien to come to harm in the Eternal City. Her American colleague, Levi Bassano becomes a great ally. Friendship with Claudia Jones, an American actress whose confidence belies her own struggles lifts Vivien, as does a romance with smooth John Lassiter. Of course, John is not what he seems, and it would appear his personal life is not what it seems either – even to him.

1950s London may have been conservative, but the author shows that Rome was little different. The Cinecitta’s films are still subject to approval from the Vatican City and Vivien’s input in the scripts often meets with disapproval from her boss and a cardinal nicknamed “mean boyfriend” by the Cinecitta film cutters. He’s not completely mean though and he remains supportive of Anita Pacelli, a flinty actress who proves to be a lioness when it comes to her beloved daughter, Margarita.

The alternating between La Scolaretta’s efforts as a resistance fighter and Vivien’s efforts as a scriptwriter was well done – one woman trying to avoid certain death from the occupying Nazis, the other trying to avoid the wrath of her boss and an all-powerful cardinal in the Vatican City, whose nickname from the Cinecitta film cutters, “mean boyfriend” is well deserved.

Famous figures have cameo roles – Daphne du Maurier as Vivien’s mentor, Peggy Guggenheim urges her to go to Italy and Ava Gardner hosts a party to which Vivien and her circle of friends are invited. From Daphne du Maurier’s early appearance in Vivien’s London bookshop to Peggy Guggenheim’s chaperoning of bookshop employee Tabitha Knight, it was great to see that the famous characters were not mere extras for context but made their own small mark in the story.

Famous buildings and places in Rome also feature large in the story. For example, when Vivien and Claudia visit the Pantheon, rain falling through the opening from a recent shower drains through special holes in the floor, a feature I did not know of despite visiting the church myself. Babington’s Tea Rooms becomes a haven for Vivien, and I wanted to go there myself.

Every Time We Say Goodbye Natalie JennerThe story takes many twists and turns as Vivien and her friends find that they cannot run from their pasts and the author brings the story to a satisfying conclusion but not without tugging at one’s heartstrings for one final time.

(c) Deirdre Lowney

Order your copy  of Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner online here.

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