Grazia Book Club’s Latest Read: The Good Left Undone

'Adriana Trigiani weaves an epic family saga of lost love, belonging and identity'

Adriana Trigiani new novel The Good Left Undone

by Maria Lally |

In this jewel of a novel, we hear the stories of three women from the Cabrelli family who have been cutting gems and creating jewellery in the Tuscan village of Viareggio for generations. Matelda is the family matriarch who knows she is reaching the end of her life and decides it’s time to reveal the secret of her mother Domenica’s life to her granddaughter, Anina.

The story leaps back to 1920, when Domenica is a feisty 11-year-old and best friends with her classmate Silvio, aka the ostracised ‘Il bastardo’, so-called because his unmarried mother became pregnant by a man who already had a family. When Silvio is hurt by the town bullies, Domenica helps their local doctor care for her friend and realises her life’s purpose.

Fast-forward to the prelude to World War II, and Domenica is now a nurse who upsets the town priest with her forward-thinking ways and is banished to France to work in a Marseille hospital. There she meets and falls in love with Scottish sailor John McVicars.

As war approaches, the young couple are forced to flee to Scotland, then Liverpool, before Domenica returns to her war-ravaged village – and life – in Tuscany.

The author also weaves in the lesser known tale about how Italian people – many of whom had lived in the UK for decades and thought of themselves as ‘Britalians’ – were rounded up and sent to internment camps because the British Government felt they couldn’t be trusted, due to Mussolini aligning with the Nazis.

‘I had no idea about the Italian experience,’ the author tells Grazia. ‘It was only by stumbling upon it while touring the Vatican that I thought, “I have to tell this incredible story.”’

For a story that has war and heartbreak at its centre, it’s a gentle read, with few twists or didn’t-see-it-coming turns. Yet Adriana’s writing is so beautiful you never want it to end, from the way she describes the candy coloured villas of Domenica’s village, to how they craft the stunning pieces of jewellery.

‘It’s a story about lost love, adventure and how to rebuild your life when the worst happens to you,’ explains Adriana. ‘I love to write different generations into a book so there’s something for everyone who reads it. Anina is in her young person bubble, thinking she’s the centre of the universe. I love it when she finally looks outwards and listens to her grandmother, eventually falling in love with her craft.’

As much as anything, this is a story about the complexities of families. Or, as Matelda says, ‘A family is only as strong as its stories’.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigani

Grazia’s Book Club gives its verdict:

‘This book was engaging, engrossing and the women were strongly written and believable.’ Bronwyn

‘What a delightful book. Unassuming, but poetic and engaging, we follow the stories of several women in one family. Although there is little action, Trigiani’s writing is stunning. Intimate and beautifully written, this novel will capture your heart and make you yearn for the sea.’ Michaela

‘A storyline that has originality and depth. A richly told and evocative novel that colourfully brings to life 20th-century Italy.’ Tina

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