Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 14th July 2016
From the moment I began reading and was whisked away to Rome to step back in time to 1951, I knew I would be enchanted by The Invitation.
When the original reporter has a prior engagement he asks his lowly colleague Hal to cover a soiree in his place. Little does Hal know that the seemingly innocent invite with its golden lettering possesses an almost fate like quality.
The local elderly Contessa wishes to raise awareness for investment for a new film she wishes to make of her ancestor’s life. It is entitled The Sea Captain and is very loosely based on a journal of he kept after being subjected to a fair amount of artistic license. Hal, feeling socially inept in his crumpled attire, catches the Contessa’s eye and worries he’s to be thrown on to the street until he finds she is miraculously aware of his previous writings. That short spark of conversation one evening leads not only to a proposal to diarise the filming schedule as the cast and crew cruise will luxuriously sail toward Cannes for the final showing, but a close encounter of the one-off passionate kind following a chance meeting with an extraordinarily enigmatic guest.
As Hal accepts the Contessa’s offer to join the cruise we are treated to an epic stream of film screenings, sumptuous dinners, glorious scenery, and the discovery of exclusives of the cast and crew. Most reporters would be tempted to use this ammunition to their advantage and yet he listens, becoming the keeper of their secrets that are too precious to publicly share.
This grand career opportunity is made all the more difficult as Ms Enigmatic is also on board. The couple try to keep their own secrets too when a confused whirlwind of emotion threatens to cast them adrift from the half-life they have both accepted for themselves.
Behind the façade of polite conversation and dress codes, the effects of the recent war remains embedded in everyone’s mind. With each port stop or chance meeting on deck it becomes clearer that despite the sparkling glamour, people are still stumbling from the debris of their past lives to find some semblance of how to survive in this changed world, or at the very least find a corner to exist now the world has changed them.
Although the ship is afloat as it makes its way to the final destination it’s clear that the people on board are drowning in one way or another. Some are manipulated, severely grief-stricken, or merely keeping up the pretence that they are actually living their lives. But all are standing behind a thin veil that separates them from true happiness.
On the side of the promenade protected by the tight mouth of the harbour, the water is still calm. But on the other the sea is wild and dark, capped with foam like the froth on a madman’s lips.
This cinematic, sweeping story of simmering passion is laced with intrigue, sadness and hope. The varying degrees of fallout following the ravages of war guided me on a truly immersive journey and I willingly became lost among the perfectly evocative passages, as diving into the pages of The Invitation was blissfully escapist.
(I was extraordinarily lucky to receive a hardback copy of this wonderful book in a generous Twitter giveaway from the publishers, for which I’m delighted to offer an unbiased review as a thank you to both them and the author.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
‘The perfect summer read… Gorgeously compelling’ Good Housekeeping
‘Film crew, Italian Riviera, 1950s. What part of that does not appeal?’ Red
Rome, 1950s. One fateful night, Hal Jacobs meets Stella, a beautiful society darling from New York. To Hal, flailing in the post-war darkness, she’s a point of light. They’re from different worlds, but both trying and failing to carve out a new life.
Stella vanishes all too quickly, until a curious invitation from an Italian Contessa reels her back into Hal’s world. They join the Contessa’s collection of luminaries on a yacht headed for Cannes film festival.
The scene on board is a fiction – scars from the war can be hidden yet not healed. Everyone is hiding a dark history, but Stella’s secrets run the deepest. Compelled by her fragile beauty, Hal is determined to bring back the girl she once was, the girl who’s been confined to history.
The Invitation is an epic love story that will transport you from the glamour of the Italian Riviera, to the darkness of war-torn Spain, and to a golden – if rather haunted – time. Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop.
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities. She then worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry – during which time she also wrote The Book of Lost and Found. Lucy now writes full-time, and is busy travelling (for research, naturally!) and working on her next novel.