Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The House of the Wind

The House of the Wind, by Titania Hardie.
A legendary ruin. An ancient mystery. Will unveiling the past transform the future?
San Francisco, 2007. Madeline Moretti is grieving for her fiancé. Nothing brings her joy any more, and Maddie's grandmother, a fiery Italian, sends her to Tuscany to heal. Here, Maddie hears about the mystery of a ruined villa.
Tuscany, 1347. Mia hasn't spoken since her mother's death, and lives with her beloved aunt. One dark night, a couple seek refuge in their villa. Used to welcoming passing pilgrims, Mia is entranced by the young bride's radiance and compassion, but mystified by her reluctance to reveal even her name. Where has she come from, and why must her presence be a secret?
Centuries apart, both Mia and Maddie will be haunted by the myth of the young woman who walked unscathed from the ruins of the House of the Wind

This is probably a suitable book for reading beside the pool in a Tuscan villa on a lazy summer holiday, or indeed on a winter cruise. It’s over 500 pages, densely written.  Reading as I do late at night, I found it tough going at times and a list of characters might have been a help in the early stages. The author has obviously done a great deal of hard work and thorough research, but there was so much detail that I felt it slowed down the plot. (Do we need to know where Maddie parked? Actually I am interested in parking but...) It took me a while to become accustomed to jumping from medieval Italy to a legal firm in California and in the next chapter quickly back again, but the 14th century characters were fascinating and their world well drawn. For some reason, I didn’t become so captivated by the 2008 story, worthy though it was – the young US lawyer Madeline represented cancer patients against big business.  Luckily the power of the wind seems to be on her side.

I’ve been to Tuscany so that helped me to visualise the Italian setting - I even googled the lovely Borgo Santo Pietro, and feel inclined to revisit the area now I've read this novel. If you go to central Italy, don't miss San Giminano (above), Assisi (St Francis), Ravenna (mosaics) and, most atmospheric of all, Siena.  By the way, don’t drive to and try to park in Siena unless your relationship is very strong.  Could be the beginning of the end!

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