Friday, June 14, 2024

Book Review: Every Time We Say Goodbye

By Melissa Smoot

In 1955, Vivien Lowry is facing the greatest challenge of her life. Her latest play, the only female-authored play on the London stage that season, has opened in the West End to rapturous applause from the audience. The reviewers, however, are not as impressed as the playgoers and their savage notices not only shut down the play but ruin Lowry's last chance for a dramatic career. With her future in London not looking bright, at the suggestion of her friend, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivien takes a job in as a script doctor on a major film shooting in Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. There she finds a vibrant movie making scene filled with rising stars, acclaimed directors, and famous actors in a country that is torn between its past and its potentially bright future, between the liberation of the post-war cinema and the restrictions of the Catholic Church that permeates the very soul of Italy.

As Vivien tries to forge a new future for herself, she also must face the long-buried truth of the recent World War and the mystery of what really happened to her deceased fiancĂ©. Every Time We Say Goodbye is a brilliant exploration of trauma and tragedy, hope and renewal, filled with dazzling characters both real and imaginary. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Even though I opted to review this book, I am not typically a big reader of historical fiction, so I did not know how I would feel about this story. I loved it! The setting in beautiful Italy, and the glitz and glamour of the movie industry pulled me in right away. I liked how the author jumped back and forth between 1943 Italy, when the war was still going on, and Post-war Italy in 1955. By adding in the backstory of 1943 Italy, it gave me such a rich and deep understanding of how the characters became their present 1955 selves, and the trauma and terror they experienced prior. 

Most of the books I have read about the war are centered around Austria and Germany, so the setting in Italy gave me another perspective as to what the world was going through at that time. It was interesting how large of a role the Catholic church played in whether citizens could watch certain movies, or if they could even be written and filmed. The political clout they held was staggering. 

Each character in the story had suffered their own heartbreaks throughout the war. This created a sense of community and a shared understanding for the individual tragedies. The children separated from parents, husbands, sons, and fathers being ripped from families, and the prisoners of war and refugees during the Nazi occupation were all part of the story. I felt that Jenner beautifully portrayed the sense of stoicism that most people probably felt after coming out on the other side of such a war. 

Every Time We Say Goodbye is an incredible book to add to your list if you are looking for a brilliant, yet touching story that will draw you in  and leave you breathless.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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