Thanks Andrew for your comments, and no I have not read anything else by her, but will look out for some that about places that I know, as bringing the atmosphere of Rome alive in her story added to the read.
Thanks @LH for your positive and fair review of The Rome Affair.
I agree with your comment that the split time narrative was well dovetailed. And that the sink hole in Elena’s garden allows the plot to develop well, alongside opening up the history of ancient Rome. Clever writing from the author, Karen Swan, no doubt. Have you read anything else by her?
Thanks again for letting us have such a thoughtful review of the Book Club’s Book of the Month for August 2017.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Rome Affair, and the split time narrative was well dovetailed in between 2017 in Rome with Cesca writing a biography of Viscontessa Elena, a rich socialite living in a Roman palace based on Doria Pamphilj; and the flashbacks to Elena’s past life. The book is very descriptive of Rome, although the Piazza’s have fictional names but all the places are based on real Rome as explained by Karen Swan in the acknowledgements. You learn about the Eternal City as “the Acqua Vergine, first built by the Roman statesman Marcus Agrippa in 19 BC, had been delivering pure drinking water to the city for over 2,000 years” feeding the Trevi Fountain.
A sink hole opens up in the extensive gardens of Elena’s Roman palace which means the discovery of Roman remains and ancient tunnels, with the discovery of one of Elena’s diamond rings, which unlocks the secrets of her past, and the hidden complications of her marriage to Vito. Everything is finally solved at the end, with various twists and turns and well worth the read.
Well, I have finally finished reading The Rome Affair by Karen Swan, and I think it’s fair to say it won’t feature on my list of top 10 favourite books.
It was all a little too shallow for me, I’m afraid. The characters were essentially one-dimensional, and although the parallel timelines of the plot were clever, resulting in an engaging denouement as the two periods collided, overall the book just didn’t capture my heart or my head.
But it was worth reading, if only for the author’s insight into life in Rome:
“Perhaps best of all, it was positioned on one side of a particularly small and quiet square which led off from the bustling Piazza Angelica and which had everything she needed in it: a dark osteria in one corner, a pizzeria opposite that and Rome’s best bakery next door to her flat. There was a bushy fig tree in the osteria’s corner and smack bang in the middle of the square was an ancient olive tree whose branches swayed in the breeze like hula dancers. It had felt like home the first time she’d set eyes upon it.”
Thanks @SandraE for your really engaging comment about the golf cart tour of Rome. As you say, what a brilliant way to see the Eternal City – any city! – regardless of personal mobility challenges. I’m posting a link below in case any other Silver Travellers want to look at this great option. I wonder if you used these guys for your own multi-generational family tour of Rome?
And by the way, author Karen Swan, who wrote August Silver Travel Book of the Month “The Rome Affair”, used to be a fashion editor for Vogue, and her character Cesca also has an eye for clothes. For the fashionistas amongst you, here are Karen’s top 5 vintage fashion shops in Rome:
1. Cinzia’s – Via del Governo Vecchio, 45. A true Aladdin’s cave down a little cobbled lane near Piazza Navona, I always make a point of darting in. Great faded denims, 1970s dresses and vintage sportswear; I still rue the girl in the changing cubicle next to me getting her hands on the retro Adidas jacket seconds before me. (She bought it, goddammit).
2. Pifebo – They have 3 stores across the city but I always go to Via Serpenti, 135-41, in the Monti district. It’s a riot of colour and textures. I bought a stunning hand-worked embroidered peasant’s blouse from there which absolutely everyone thinks is a much-more-expensive designer original.
3. Borghetto Flaminio – Piazza della Marina, 32 – a mini Portobello, this is a small but bustling outdoor vintage market, just opposite Piazza del Popolo. Not especially high-end labels but great for a rummage for more anonymous one-offs, which is my favourite part anyway. There’s a small cover charge – just a few euros, if I remember correctly – but definitely worth it. Sundays only, 10am – 7pm.
4. Second Chance – Via Sardegna, 57 – if bags are your thing, this is THE place to get them. All the biggest labels are stocked and the quality is mint.
5. King Size Vintage Via del Boschetto, 94 – another small store bursting at the seams with curios and quirky delights. Funky sunglasses, platform shoes, old leathers, vintage furs and sequin dresses. I simply can’t help myself, I just have to go in.
My daughter and I took my mother to Rome. At the age of 80, she’s pretty fit but walking all day for several days would have been a bit much. I searched the internet and came across golf cart tours. Just as it sounds. A tour of the city in a golf cart. The driver speaks good English and is an excellent guide. The cart can go into parks and along small roads and paths that cars can’t. We had a brilliant tour, stopping off and seeing all the main sites. The cart is open and comfortable. It even takes wheelchairs. Thoroughly recommended whether you have mobility problems or not.
Sadly… sadly I’ve not managed to visit the most Romantic city in the world… it is somewhere that one day I hope I will be able to visit ❤️
I visited Rome nearly three years ago as part of a tour of Italy by rail. We visited all the usual places with a guided tour on our first day. We were disappointed to find that the Trevi Fountain was covered over as it was being done up but we really enjoyed the ice cream parlour which was very near by! Left to explore on our own we walked miles in the heat and were amused to see that we could have hired a couple of Segways to make life easier!
No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to The Vatican and our tour leader booked a specialist tour guide who was extremely knowledgeable and knew a few short cuts. Unfortunately my husband managed to get lost and we had rather a frightening time searching for him in The Sistine Chapel! Understandably the guards were particularly officious so neither of us were really able to appreciate the beautiful ceiling properly! I would love to go back again some time but would go in the winter when I understand there are very few queues.
One evening we ate a wonderful dinner in a restaurant which used to be a Roman bath where we were serenaded by a guitarist and the views from the terrace garden were magnificent.