Sarah Winman’s Still Life is the balm needed to medicate against the last year and a half of the global pandemic. Set in post-WWII London and Florence, Winman creates a lush world full of tangible characters who break your heart in all the best ways. It begins with a chance encounter on a small country road in war-torn Tuscany. There, Ulysses Temper, an idealistic twenty-something English soldier, and Evelyn Skinner, a sextagenarian art historian meet and share an adventurous evening celebrating wine, art, and newfound friendships. The two diverge and set course upon two parallel paths that spiral inward and outward along a trajectory that is never truly separate. During the course of forty years, Winman manages to enliven both post-war London and Florence and captures their resilience and specific beauties with rapturous prose. Within each city, there is suffering, there is collapse, there is pain, there is poverty. But, life goes on, and so do the powerful humans who occupy these spaces. The people are real, you know them and you feel their pain and suffering, joy, and happiness. You root for them and you cry with them. This is a book about chance encounters, magical evenings around Italian tablesides, changing societies, found family, chances taken and missed, grief, forgiveness, and the profoundly sacred space of human connection. Still Life reminds us that, after a year of isolation, we both owe it to ourselves to allow others in from time to time.
Still Life by Sarah Winman, (List Price: $27, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 9780593330753, November 2021)
Joce Mallin, M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers in Greenville, South Carolina