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A new edition of the Booker Prize winner Penelope Fitzgerald's best-loved novel of romance in post-war Italy, with a new introduction by Julian Barnes. The Ridolfis are a Florentine family of long lineage and little money. It is 1955, and the family, like its decrepit villa and farm, has seen better days. Only eighteen-year-old Chiara shows anything like vitality. Chiara has set her heart on Salvatore, a young and brilliant doctor who resolved long ago to be emotionally dependent on no one. Faced with this, she calls on her English girlfriend Barney to help her make the impossible more

Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 26mm | 222.26g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0006542379
  • 9780006542377
  • 139,135

Review quote

'Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality - the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.' Sebastian Faulks 'Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.' David Nicholls 'Penelope Fitzgerald's Innocence seems to me to be about real people undergoing real experiences, more real and more interesting than most biographies, and it carries absolute conviction as to time and place. What more could one ask of a novel?' Spectator Books of the Year 'Innocence weilds a curious fascination, replete with the sense of sleepy, slightly anxious fatalism that pervades much of the Italian cinema of the period. Its magic, and its message, are as oblique and inconclusive as the lives of its characters, but both have a lingering power, refreshingly fictive, deliciously un-English.' Literary Review 'I know of no one who expresses so deftly and entertainingly the way in which life seldom turns out as expected. A wonderful book.' Spectator 'This is by far the fullest and richest of Penelope Fitzgerald's novels, and also the most ambitious. Her writing, as ever, has a natural authority, is very funny, warm and gently ironic, and full of tenderness towards human beings and their bravery in living.' TLSshow more

Review Text

This thickly textured comedy of manners, by Booker Prize-winner Fitzgerald (the mystery The Golden Child, 1979, and the non-fiction The Knox Brothers, 1978) serves up a dish of wit and wry so chockablock with eccentric characters that it may be too rich a concoction for the American palate. Set in Italy in the 1950's, the novel spans times past and present, geographies of North and South, politics and nuances of politesse. Its characters are scientists and men of God, aristocrats and communists, wine makers, dressmakers, failed philanthropists, ardent and indifferent stutters. The Ridolfi, an ancient noble family are crumbling like their villa, the Ricordanza, into genteel poverty and idiosyncracy. The old Count and his sister Maddalena come and go in the Ricordanza or in their equally decrepit flat in Florence. The Count keeps himself remote while his sister engages in misguided charity; she establishes a Refuge in which old women look after homeless infants ("The toothless would comfortably coexist with the toothless"). The Count's daughter Chiara, educated in England, meanwhile meets Dr. Salvatore Rossi at a concert and is smitten. Salvatore, from the South, ill-tempered, bad-mannered, poor, turns his back on his roots in Mazzata, bis parcel of land there, and his obligations (according to his father's communist comrades - disciples of Antonio Gramsci) to return to Mazzata only as resident intellectual. Chiara in result invites her English schoolmate Barney to advise her in affairs of the heart: Barney, big-boned and big-hearted, makes a big mess as she tries both to counsel Chiara and to find her own suitable or unsuitable mate. As Barney, Chiara, and Maddalena (at whose Refuge the old ladies stash away the babies from potential adopters) and their fellows discover, helping others can have disastrous results. In lively prose, Fitzgerald pins down her characters so brilliantly - often with one incisive sentence - that they threaten to become specimens, distanced by her cleverness. This is a peculiarly English dessert, dense as trifle, to be ingested slowly, not swallowed whole. An acquired taste. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of more

Rating details

340 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 23% (79)
4 35% (120)
3 28% (95)
2 10% (33)
1 4% (13)
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