By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster.
We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn.
And do you know what it’s capable of?
I do. Grace and fury.
It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.
Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her 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.
These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and 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.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
‘An utterly beautiful story, so generous, rich, deeply moving and filled with hope. Sarah Winman is a genius and one of the greatest storytellers of our time’ JOANNA CANNON, author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
‘A playful, Maupinesque exploration of the elective family and its possibilities. Four course nourishment for all Winman fans, it harnesses big hearted storytelling to a dizzying historical sweep to celebrate love in all the available colours’ PATRICK GALE, author of Take Nothing With You
'I loved this extraordinary, astonishing and exquisite novel. The story of damaged characters restored and repaired by the truth and beauty of Tuscany, as Florence itself is restored and repaired post-war and post-flood is beautifully told. A joy and a pleasure, my book of the year’ LIZ NUGENT, author of Little Cruelties
‘This book saved my soul during these very strange times. I loved every word, every sentence, every beat. The characters and places now live in my own memory - to be cherished forever’ FAVELL PARETT, author of Past the Shallows
‘A book that celebrates the big moments and small intricacies that make us human. I utterly adored it’ SIMON SAVIDGE, @savidgereads
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Evelyn Skinner has led an amazing, unconventional life, now as World War II draws to a bloody end, she’s back in an Italian villa. She’s there to save some of the artwork there and to remember the great love of her life, a maid she met there years before. In the wine cellar of the villa she meets British soldier Ulysses Temple and the two form an immediate bond. Ulysses is so moved by Evelyn and her story that it changes his life; that meeting impacts him and everyone he comes into contact with for the next forty years. This is a beautiful story full of wisdom, truth and beauty and readers will need their tissues nearby
The writing is beautiful, poetic and the descriptions ofFlorence so vivid with imagery of food, smells, colours and scents that transports the reader to Florence. As with her previous novels, Sarah Winman creates characters that come to life and we would all love to know. Sarah Winman’s writing gets better with each book she writes
A novel to savour and fall in love with, Sarah Winman has a delightful ability to bring characters alive on the page, then they slowly weave their way into your heart as you grow to love each and every one.
Ulysses Temper first meets Evelyn Skinner when the Allied troops are making their way through Italy in 1944. He’s a young soldier from a poor part of London, she’s an art critic and Italophile, desperate to help restore Italian works of art to their correct homes and also to escape a tediously dull, ex-lover who has tracked her down and doesn’t want to let go. Temper’s superior, Captain Darnley, is also an art lover and the three bond over fine wines and paintings in an abandoned villa. After the war Temper returns to London and tries to pick up the pieces of his old life but never forgets his time in Italy and the redoubtable Miss Skinner so when the chance is offered to return to Florence he seizes the opportunity taking some of his nearest and dearest on an amazing adventure. Winman’s books just get better, the descriptions of both London and Italy after the war are so real you feel as if you were there with them. London is drab and grey with tins of spam, Florence is bright and warm with fine wines and flavoursome foods all against a backdrop of fabulous art. The characters are flawed as people are, but Winman’s gift of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary draws you in to a magical world. Perfect reading for a rainy afternoon in pandemic lockdown this is the next best thing to actually being in Florence.
Sarah Winman is an author I will always look out for. When God was a Rabbit was an astonishingly good novel and one that stayed with me for many years. I loved Tinman too so I had high expectations for Still Life. It took me a while to work out the characters and where they all fit into the story. The author allows you to form your own mental picture of the people through dialogue more than description which is a clever ploy. The story builds and spans decades and is a very satisfying read. The reference to art interested me too. I would recommend this book but there are no chapters so I tended to read way into the night!
I’m a great fan of Sarah Winman and always look forward to reading her new work - Still Life does not disappoint. Sarah writes with great care and love about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and with a deft, poetic touch transforms the everyday into something memorable. Ulysses Temperley’s life changes dramatically after a chance encounter in Florence at the end of WW2 leads to him inheriting a house there and ultimately forging a new life in Italy. Surrounded by a cast of supporting characters, we are transported from grey, dismal , war-scarred London to the bright, warm and colourful embrace of a Florence rising from its ashes and from the austerity of the fifties through the landmark moments of each decade caught in freeze-frame clarity. Still Life is a warm and generous novel, as welcome in these times as a hot bowl of soup on a cold winters day, teaching us that friendship is as important as love and that accepting everyone for who they are is the most important lesson of all.
Many thanks to the author, publishers and Netgalley for a free ARC of this ebook. Firstly, I should say that this book is very long. That said, when I finished it, I felt like I had run off the edge of a cliff.. I wasn't ready for it to end, even though the story had concluded beautifully, I knew that I was going to miss the characters so much, and it had occupied my mind so fully, I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to them. This is a beautiful book, the people in it are so finely drawn, that even despite some of the situations being comedic and larger than life I believed in them totally. Ullyses, Peg, Alys, Cress, Col, Evelyn and all are wonderful. I can't recommend this book highly enough, it's something to fill your mind with positivity during these challenging times. If I could give it 10 stars I would.
I could not put this down- I needed Ulysses and Evelyn to find each other again and again throughout this beautifully descriptive novel. Set on the whole in Italy but with its feet firmly entrenched in the East End of London the book sweeps through the post war years and the changes wrought in both locations following Ulysses and Evelyn as they keep bypassing each other by pure chance. The other main characters are equally as interesting and unique and almost step off the pages. The descriptions of the art and the music and the characters themselves are exquisite.
I loved this book so much! It’s a joyous story of unforgettable characters. The first few pages are so wonderfully written I found myself reading them three times before moving on. The dialogue between Evelyn Skinner and a Margaret someone (loved that!) was witty and hilarious, and there are so many brilliant conversations in the novel, poignant as well as funny. The setting of Florence appealed to me and I loved the descriptions of the paintings, the city and the meals. I felt as though I had travelled there which, in lockdown, was marvellous! It was a joy to feel so close to the characters, to experience the ups and downs of their lives and share in their good fortune. I was desperate for Ulysses and Evelyn to meet again. It’s a substantial book but I didn’t want it to end. The writing is so clever, stylish and original. It’s an absolute treat and I know I will read it again. Fabulous!
Oh my - already one of my favourite books of the year. This was just what I needed at the moment, and I did not want it to end. It's full of humour (not what I was expecting for some reason), full of emotion, full of wonderful characters (Claude the parrot definitely deserves a round of applause), and full of beautifully evocative writing about the wonders of Florence, Italian food, art - well just about everything is just so damn good!! Set partly in London but mostly in Florence, and spanning from 1944 through to the 70s,we follow British soldier Ulysses and art historian Evelyn, who meet in Florence in 1944, and we then follow both their lives as they go their separate ways. What follows is a glorious story of the paths they follow over the decades with the people they love, and all the adventures that come with it. We can't go abroad at the moment, but you'll feel like you're in Florence as you read, you become so immersed in it all. I went there about 25 years ago, and now can't wait to return. Just marvellous. The only reason I knocked off a star was because the book contains no quotation marks, which bothered me slightly in parts, as it slightly upset the flow when I wasn't sure if someone was speaking or if it was part of a normal sentence.
This is a really sweet slow burn story. Set during the war and beyond. Set mainly in Italy this is the perfect escape. It's emotional but there are lots of lighter moments. The two main characters, Florence and Ulysses first meet during the war then thy both go back to life before the war. The story follows how their paths were destined to cross again. Beautifully written.
Oh how I enjoyed’Still Life’ by Sarah Winman. I agree with some other reviewers that the writing can be a bit disjointed at times but the further I read the more I felt that it added to the story. I loved the characters, especially Claude the parrot and felt the description of Florence was really evocative
This is a lovely book. From WW2 Italy to the East End of London, then back to Florence, it follows Ulysses Temper (marvellous name, the significance of which is explained in the book) over the course of about 30 years. The writing is spare, but creates beautiful images and there are many moments of humour. The characters are compelling. A book that will stay with you for some time - well worth a read.
Sarah Winman has woven such a simply stunning tale that will stay with me for a long while. It's a book that cries out for being reread. Set between London and Italy, the book opens with Evelyn Skinner (in her 60's) , an art historian who encounters Ulysses Temper - a young british soldier whilst attempting to save important pieces of art work during the second world war. They spend a night in a cellar sharing stories over good bottles of wine and it's this night. that has a long lasting impact on both of their lives. Characters such as Peg, Alys, Pete as so richly described that you feel as though they are good friends and you are living their experiences with them. The writing is emotive and at times very moving. Told from both Ulysses and Evelyn's perspectives, the story takes place over many years from and there are numerous instances where Evelyn and Ulysses almost cross paths but fate has other ideas. A lovely heart-warming tale.
I suffered with 'book grief' when I finished 'Still Life' by Sarah Winman. It is a novel that chronicles the lives of Ulysses Temper, Evelyn Skinner, and a cast of indominatable and quirky characters throughout war torn 1940's through to the 1970's. Half of the novel is set in grimy London and the other is set in beautiful Florence. For me the essence and hero of the novel, was the multiple forms love can take. Love of friends, superiors, art, books, parents, place and lovers are all included. However, 'Still Life' isn't a romance and instead has some very sharp corners to it, as well as some quirky parts. If I were to criticise Winman, it would be for the last section of the novel. Here, Evelyn is a young girl in Florence, and is starting to develop the grit and zeal you love her for throughout the rest of the book. However, in its position at the end of the novel, it felt tacked on. Otherwise this felt like a novel written by someone who absolutely knows what they are doing and could write several more with the same cast and I would happily lap them up.
This is a hard review to write as on finishing this book I feel utterly bereft, I really, really did not want it to end, I could quite happily pick it back up and start it all over again and that is a rare feeling for me. This is a book that will stay with me, I think I will find myself wondering how the characters are doing whilst I'm stood in a queue or in a quiet moment, and I know that if I ever go to Florence I will be looking for them out the corner of my eye. I adored every single character, from quiet and kind Ulysses to brash and bold Peg, deep thinking and soul feeling Cress, and erudite and wise Evelyn. Each has their story to tell and their part to play in each others and the novel flows along like a river drawing the reader into their lives and immersing them in their loves. This is a story about love, and friendship and families given and families found, it's a story about finding your place in the world, about finding your people and your passion. It a story about loss and grief but also about great great joy. The writing is unique and beautiful, at times I laughed out laugh and other times quietly wept, and the descriptions of Italy are enough to make you feel like you've been. Covering four decades this novel passes in the blink of an eye and four decades more would still not be enough time in this world, with these people. Sarah Winman is an awesome writer and I have loved her previous books but this really is the cream of the crop and although it is only April I think this will be a hard book to beat for my book of this year.
4.5 rounded up This is a wonderful character driven story of kindred spirits which takes us on an emotional journey from Florence to the East End of London. In 1944 Evelyn Skinner and Margaret Somebody or other meet Private Ulysses Temper of the 8th Army in the Tuscan Hills. Evelyn and Ulysses form a connection and a bond that will remain for many years. Meanwhile in London, Uly’s wife Peg is enduring the war years as best she can with some ‘comforting’ from Eddie an American soldier. Post war the action alternates between the two areas - in London it centres on The Stoat and Parot with landlord Col and wonderful customers like Cress and Pete. Where to start?? I adore the way Sarah Winman writes, her descriptions are so lovely that the quality of the writing makes my heart sing!!! There’s humour some of which is burst out loud laughter it’s so original, some of the phrases, thoughts and asides the characters make absolutely crack me up! The art, the richness of the Florentine heritage, the wine, the food, the glorious characters with lively conversations that make you feel as if you’re a welcome guest at their table and they are also your friends. It’s hard to pick out the characters as they’re all fantastic with some traits towards the eccentric which always resonates with me but if I have to pick one apart from Uly then it has to be Cress and Claude the parrot is hysterical. Who knew a parrot read Shakespeare!? There are some colourful sections such as two men, one attired in shorts, a girl, a parrot, a car named Betsy and an ancient Baedeker journey from the East End to settle in Florence. As it turns out, all roads lead to Florence for the characters in the book. This wonderful book is about love, deep and lasting friendship, complex relationships, beauty in the simple things as well as wondrous ones, there’s kindness, compassion and some sadness. I confess to the occasional tear but it’s mostly full of joy. I like how the story is set in its historical context with real events referenced such as the disastrous floods in Florence of 1966. My only reservation is how the book backtracks at the end to Evelyn’s first encounter with Florence which I didn’t find as enjoyable as being with the east end crew, in spite of the colourful ‘portrait’ of EM Forster! Overall, an emotional, moving, hilarious, joyous, clever and beautifully written book which I love. I’ll always want to read anything by Sarah Winman as she creates magic with words. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to 4th Estate for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review
Do people become part of your life for a reason? This is a story of how people come together in the good times and the bad. How family does not always mean blood relations but those special people who become part of your life when you’re broken and they become the glue which holds you together. The story starts during WW2, when an unlikely friendship forms between a young British soldier, Ulysses Temper and a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy, Evelyn Skinner whose lives cross paths in Italy, and are taking shelter from bombs in a wine cellar which is also hiding a treasured piece of stolen art, a painting which Evelyn has come to salvage. This is the beginnings of a great friendship, but as the years go by after the war, although they have never forgotten each other, their paths never quite meet until a great Flood in Florence reunites them again. As the reader is taken on the journey of Ulysses life following on from the war and back in East End London, we come to meet an array of characters with vibrant personalities. They are his family and his friends and they do not hold back from brilliant sarcasm and wit. Each character is a bit broken as the war took its toll, but they are there for each other in their own broken ways and they are all in search of the brighter side of life. This is a beautiful historical saga that is brilliantly written as you become immersed as part of this family, you feel as if you are there listening to their conversations. The conversational style in which parts of this story is written takes the reader into the minds of each character, and there are a lot of different personalities. Although it did take me a while to figure everyone out, I don’t think there was a single one that I disliked. None of them were perfect, they all have their issues and different ways of handling situations and life in general, but that is reality. Everyone is different. However, my favourite character has to be Claudie the very profound, Shakespeare quoting parrot. He is just brilliant and had me laughing out loud numerous times. Still Life truly is a window into another family's life.
This is a five star book. London soldier Ulysses and art expert Evelyn have a brief, none romantic, encounter just outside of Florence in World War Two which binds them together throughout their lives. This is not a romance but this is a love story. It’s about the love of friendship, the love of families that aren’t born through blood but are created by shared experiences and respect, the love of art and language and also the love of Florence. I loved this book so much that I actually started to slow down my rate of reading it, so that I could savour every moment spent with these characters. Some of the chance connections between some of the characters did become a bit far fetched in one section, but at least the author acknowledged this. The writing is sumptuous and some of the images that Winman created, with her words, will stay in my memory as if I’d actually seen them in real life. So if you can’t go to Italy this year and you fancy a trip to Florence then get this book. This is a book that I will re-read, and I say that about very few books. Thank you to @4thestatebooks for gifting me advance ebook access
Still Life was a beautiful story. It told so many stories really, with something for everyone. I loved Ulysses and Evelyn, Cress, Pete and young Ayls too. It spanned so long and covered so many lives. I wanted to shake Peg so often, she drove me a little crazy if I'm honest. I thought the first 20% was quite drawn out. It took me an age to get through and for me to become invested in their lives. I really enjoyed the next 70% but I thought Evelyn’s own story should have been more seamlessly woven into the main body of the novel. I had thoroughly enjoyed the story of all the friends and how their lives connected before the switch. I also found that the detailed description of the artwork was incredibly in-depth at times. For an art lover perhaps it would be ideal, but for a passive observer I felt it was a little excessive. It was a lovely story though and Ulysses and Evelyn really stood out as memorable characters.
I gave read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Sarah Winman's book so I was really looking forward to Still Life. Ulysses Temper is a wonderful character and I loved his story from hero soldier to Florence via a dilapidated London pub. The people who help to tell his story are all really engaging. Wonderful Cress who talks to trees and has premonitions about world events. Peg, Ulysses' ex-wife with a great voice. Alys or Kid as he calls her and Evelyn who is the thread that pulls the story together. I loved most of this book but, although J liked Evelyn, I wanted less of her and more of Ulysses. Evelyn's story, coming towards the end of the book felt out of place. As did Cress' death which came too early for me and felt unexplained.
I feel rather conflicted all in all about this novel. My thoughts about it were so changeable, and as I read I found my opinion altered. For the first 20% of the book I kept wondering what is this about?! It begins in war-time, in Italy and with two woman, one of whom is amusing and interesting, but then fairly swiftly it moves on with no more mention of either for a long, long time. I enjoyed the humour of Evelyn’s responses to Margaret someone (definitely lower case!) The humour and style of writing kept reminding me off Mary Wesley, amongst others. Then it was whizzing through the early fifties, good things come to those who wait, I wondered? It took me until at least halfway through (maybe 65%?) to grab my attention. Up until that point it just felt like a huge list going through the decades of this happened and then that happened, and then another thing happened. But my favourite sections were when Ulysses and gang are more or less settled and the care and attention they all took with each other. The characters are sympathetic and have their own voices, which is harder than it seems to portray. Then, of course, the best is at the very end when Evelyn first visits Florence. This ties it all together. I think what the rest of the book needed was more dialogue. I really, really wanted the characters to talk to each other. The author’s descriptions really make me want to go to Florence; to eat the food, visit places mentioned in the book and study the art. I’ve Googled so many Florentine pictures, sculptures and buildings things mentioned in this book. As well as so much highlighting and translating of Italian phrases, that I’m sure my finger is flatter than it used to be! I wish there were chapters. I don’t mind the lack of speech marks, although I know the lack can infuriate others, but I would like some kind of sectioning of book. (This might be addressed when the book is published as I read an ARC.) In summary: I’ve previously read all the author’s other novels and really liked them all. I didn’t love this book, but I did enjoy it. In the end. I’m very grateful to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this pre-publication
A superb story that will stay with me for a long time. Loved the different characters & Claude the parrot - perfect timing every time!
This book is simply a masterpiece. Spanning three decades in the lives of its cast of colourful characters, the scope is epic. However, as the name suggests, it focuses on fleeting points in time. Winman paints moments with words, capturing the light and shade of human experience, like the artworks and photographs that are a motif throughout. It is this vivid detail that makes this book such a delight to read. One fateful afternoon in 1944 a young soldier, Ulysses Temper, meets bohemian art historian Evelyn Skinner somewhere in the Tuscan Hills. They share a bottle of wine and their views on Portormo’s Deposition from the Cross. It is a brief encounter but one that will link the rest of their lives. The story shifts between the East End of London, centred on The Stoat and Parrot and its regular drinkers, to the sun drenched beauty of Florence. An act of kindness links the two places and alters the course of the East Enders lives. With an expert hand, Winman illustrates the characters in such detail they jump from the page. They are warm and vibrant and flawed and human. I adored ‘facts man’ Cressy, who finds a love of poetry and art late in life, and Claude, the Amazonian parrot with a penchant for Shakespeare, who provides some delightful moments of comedy. His quote from Much Ado just about broke my poor heart though. The theme of art, in its broadest sense, is ever present, with each character finding their own form of artistic expression. There’s also a delicate exploration of love and the emotions that are felt as keenly from one generation to the next. While I admit to knowing very little about art history, I was entranced by Evelyn’s explanations of the lineage of artists and the influence they had on each other. In the same way I can see a rich literary heritage in this book. There’s a touch of modernism in the style, and a definite nod to Woolf and Forster, the later even makes a brief appearance, and his Room with a View is referenced throughout. Overall, this book feels like a love letter to Florence, the city that has inspired so much art and literature. I’ve never visited myself but after turning the last page, I found myself checking train schedules to see how to make the journey Evelyn loved so well. Maybe...
I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating read by Sarah Winman. It's a brilliant exploration of love, sacrifice, and humanity. Thanks for the ARC!
Like other reviewers, I struggled to get into this book, finding it confusing and having no sense of it going anywhere. However, I am glad that I persisted as I found myself settling into it and finally enjoying it tremendously. When the story moved from London to Italy the writing became exuberant and full of vitality. Characters with whom I had been unable to engage came alive and it was interesting to see them separating and reuniting at different times.. Some seemed just a bit too good to be true, Ulysses especially, but there seemed to be something very special drawing them all back to each other again and again. A big irritation for me was that Alys was referred to as 'kid' throughout a whole chapter. Suddenly in the next chapter she was considered old enough to be called by her name. I didn't understand this at all. There were some vividly described scenes, particularly the flood in Florence which came alive before my eyes. I apologize if this review seems a bit muddled, but that really reflects my response to this book - disliking it at first, warming to it, and finally loving it. A strange but ultimately satisfying novel. I will read more by Sarah Winman.
I absolutely loved this book. It pulled me in from the first page and has stayed with me long after I finished it. A must read!
This book is pure joy. I absolutely loved it and did not want it to end. It is beautifully written and at times laugh out loud.funny You will fall in love with all the characters and the history and art of Florence. It is at times whimiscal, hilarious, and extremely moving. After I finished it, I went back and read the beginning again. It is a must read for 2021.
A beautiful, evocative book, masterfully written. Definitely lived up to expectations - and mine were high as I liked Sarah Winman's other books especially When God was a Rabbit. Will be recommending this one.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this when it started in war torn italy and then moved back to London, but it turned into a wonderful tribute to friends and relationships, with a love of Florence running in the b@ckground. I loved all the characters and thought they were extremely well described, you could picture them all. You could also picture there surroundings. I only dropped a star, as I was slightly disappointed with the ending, I feel that chapter could have been placed earlier in the book to aid the characters understanding
I absolutely loved this book! Loved the characters, the settings, the story. I didn't want it to end and felt as though I had left friends when it did. Amazing, beautiful and evocative novel. I have pre-ordered for my bookshop
I enjoyed this book, with memorable characters, Ulysses Temper, Captain Darnley and Evelyn Skinner and a lot, lot more. The writing is strong and descriptive with wonderful & witty dialogue. The novel is filled with descriptions whereby you feel you are there in the moment! This story is beautifully written and is funny and deeply moving at times, This is a story of love, fate, family, friendship and life and so much more. I recommend this book and give a 4 star rating. I WANT TO THANK NETGALLEY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY OF READING AN ADVANCED COPY OF THIS BOOK FOR AN HONEST REVIEW
I love Sarah’s books and this is such an elegant and heartwarming cast of characters. The sense of place is brilliant, drawing up both the dreariness of post war England and the warmth and beauty of Florence. Funny and heartbreaking often at the same time, it’s a very enjoyable read.
Italy in 1944. In a ruined villa two extraordinary strangers meet. Evelyn and Ulysses. He is a soldier and she tries to save the paintings from the ruins. They start to talk and reminiscence their lives, all the interesting moments - with truth and beauty and to Ulysses a decades long impact. Italian atmosphere, poetic narrative and a story full of wisdom. Beautiful read.
I am a huge Winman fan so was thrilled to get the chance to read this. I found the first 25% of the book very hard to get into however as the chapters and different character storylines went on I became engrossed, by the end I felt bereft to finish. Wouldnt highly recommend, stick with it.
Still Life - wow. What a book. Of course, I know that Sarah Winman is much admired, and yes, I have had When God Was A Rabbit sitting on my shelf for at least ten years, but I hadn't actually read her work before. Gulp. Are they all this good? Still Life is the kind of book you never want to end. It's about family and friendship, about art and Italy and London, about war and circumstance, and yes, about life. I love how the story follows the intertwining lives of the central characters, from 1901 through to the 1970s. I was truly emerged in their story, and I laughed, cringed and cried along with them. I cannot put into words just how much I cherished the experience of reading this book. I am still in its world. Perhaps the words will come to me later and perhaps they won't. Why don't you read it and see what I mean?
Funny, tender, sweet. This wonderful tome which spans decades of friendship, lovers, family and camaraderie bursts with how people (and a bird!), misfits really, (but are they?) come together to create a life absolutely worth living in unusual circumstances. I want to hug this book and read it again and again so that it’s goodness, optimism and purity infuses my soul. Every character is perfectly yet sparsely described. The setting is exquisite, histories hinted at, the Anglo Italian journeys back and forth across Europe from the East End to Italy are wonderfully deliciously described. I cannot wait to press this magical wonder into as many hands as possible. My book of the year.
I completely fell in love with this book after being a little resistant at first. There are some slightly magical touches (conversations with trees, a parrot who says meaningful things), that I was feeling a bit cynical about... and then I fell hard for Ulysses, Cress, Evelyn and all the other characters. The book takes place in Florence and London in wartime and the years that follow. Winman is so good at creating a quite lovely story without slipping into saccharine territory. (Bad things do happen and some of the characters are hard to like). This very humane book is about art and love of all kinds and was, for me, the perfect pandemic read.
I wasn't sure about this book when I started but persevered and loved it. It's a story of love and loss and friendship and relationships. I laughed and cried. The lack of speech marks was distracting at times but I even got used to that. It's first book I've read by Sarah Winman, but I'm going to check out her others.
This gorgeous novel had a whole cast of eclectic characters, a parrot who made me laugh out loud, a man who dates women alphabetically by first name, and a wonderful whole segment where our little band of characters settle in Florence! It was so delightful, so charming, that I really didn't want it to end. I did like Evelyn's character, but her story at the end seemed to sit a little strangely, Anyway, the characters all seemed very real to me - Ulysses and Cress were my favs - and I'll never forget them.. It made me want to go to Florence and just bask in the beauty. The Room with a View comparisons only really come in towards the end, with Evelyn's part of the story, but that was okay...I stopped looking for them after a little while. Great read.
This novel is perfection. There are few times that I have read a novel with characters so vivid and fully formed, sights and sounds so evocative, and emotions so acutely observed and described. This is a novel about life, its beauty and its pleasures, and about the people we love, whether family or friends. Split between London and Florence, we are drawn into the worlds of two people who meet by chance. Evelyn Skinner, sixty-four and in Italy during the Second World War in her role as an art historian, meets Private Ulysses Temper, twenty-four and part of the Eighth Army. What follows is a story containing a cast of loveable, highly memorable characters and chapter after chapter of exquisite writing that shares the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, of their lives over the course of the following decades. Every facet of the human condition is reflected in these pages and you will find yourself caring deeply for each of the characters. This is the first time I have read any of Sarah Winman’s work and I was briefly thrown by her writing style not including speech marks but quickly got used to this. Unsurprisingly, given so much of the novel takes place in and around Florence, there is a flavour of E. M. Forster’s ‘A Room With A View’, too, and both Forster and his novel are referred a handful of times, with a marvellous scene featuring the author himself that concludes the book. As someone who studied ‘A Room With A View’ at school, this was a delightful bonus. I am extremely grateful to the publisher, Fourth Estate, for an advance copy, on which this review in based. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I implore anyone reading this to purchase a copy. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I feel my own life has been enriched by this novel and it’s one I feel sure I will return to again and again in years to come.
The sense of time and place is pin sharp, with the reader being immediately transported to wherever the author wants us to go. Sarah Winman is an incredibly versatile author and this will delight her many fans
Sarah Winman's writing is such a treat. I immediately fell in love the characters, the setting, the dialogue, the theme. A real skill to be able to write about this era in a way that feels fresh and hopeful.
This is a beautifully written book about a great bunch of characters. We follow them from 1944 through to the late 1970s as they meet up, love, leave, and then regroup. A great history of the times too with plenty of social history references for those who remember the years and for those who are interested in what was going on when their parents and grandparents were young(er). Such lyrical writing which gives a great sense of time and place. I loved it. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the e-ARC of this book for me to read and review.
"Still Life" by Sarah Winman is a beautifully written book about life in Florence during and after the 2nd World War. Action flits back and forth between dreary post-war London and la dolce vita of Florence and the colourful characters that come to inhabit the bed and breakfast there. The characters and the interesting stories that these characters tell is what makes this book. I just want to be there and be their friends!
Having not read anything by Sarah Winman before, I dove into reading Still Life completely blind. Off the bat, I will warn any potential readers that this does not have any speech marks which, whilst an organic way to read, can make it a difficult one when trying to work out who is speaking. However, whilst the separation of text can be frustrating, the text itself is well-written and spans several time periods, focusing on snapshots of time (that Still Life the title alludes to) in East London and Florence, Italy. It is in Florence, in 1944, that young soldier Ulysses Temper shares a bottle of 1900 Château Margaux in a cellar with sexagenarian art historian Evelyn Skinner (possible spy), discussing art, life and beauty as bombs fall around them. It appears a running theme in other reviews that the first 100 pages can be a slog to get through due to the lack of apparent plot and slow pacing. Whilst I agree the pacing was slow and normally am all for plot-heavy books that drive you forward, I did enjoy Still Life and its approach. As a queer woman, I am always on the lookout for LGBTQ+ representation and, despite the time period Still Life normalises it incredibly well. Oh, Evelyn isn’t straight, cool beans, moves on - who she loves/sleeps with is central to her as a person and character but isn’t just facilitated as a plot device, which I really appreciated. However, Claude the Parrot is my favourite character, no I will not be taking questions at this time, you’ll just have to read and find out why he’s your favourite too. Overall, despite its lack of pace, Still Life creates a richly interwoven story that all starts in a little cellar with a bottle of wine and some gorgeous 16th Century art. My thanks to NetGalley, Sarah Winman and Fourth Estate for the ARC.
Description By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood… and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart’s capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it’s capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her 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. These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and 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. Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate. Review I needed a breather after reading this one. This was my first ready by Sarah WInman, having recognised and followed her progress from when God was a rabbit to this sweeping story of family and love. I have to admit the first 100 pages i struggled with, then suddenly i was immersed in Ulysses life and couldnt put the book down. I admit i lost a weekend to this, to needing to see how ulysses and Alys emerged from the story. And i loved it. It was the combination of the war setting, to the art, food, wine and history of Florence that helped immerse me in what is a story of family being not necessarily blood family, of friendship, of love and finding your place with those you love. The writing style is perhaps one you need to get used to and some have mentioned the lack of speech marks. Whilst that allowed the story to flow for me, i also laughed out loud at the humour, and Claude the parrott and Cress, it was all beautifully written. I particularly love the photographer taking photos, the click catching a moment in time, and that this was crucial to the wrapping up of the story. There was a very strong sense of place, of London post war, of Florence and having missed travel for 12 months it is what we all need. This is a novel that will fly off the shelves, it will be reread by Sarah Winman fans, and i expect to see it on the best sellers lists for some time. 4/5 #StillLife #NetGalley