A poignant snapshot of post WWII Italy... Every Time We Say Goodbye by Natalie Jenner (Review) #newbooks #booktwitter #bookx #everytimewesaygoodbye #historicalfiction #histfic #womensfiction

Every Time We Say Goodbye
By Natalie Jenner
Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Hardcover, Audiobook & eBook, 336 Pages
May 14, 2024 by St. Martin's Press


The bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls returns with a brilliant novel of love and art, of grief and memory, of confronting the past and facing the future.

In 1955, Vivien Lowry is facing the greatest challenge of her life. Her latest play, the only female-authored play on the London stage that season, has opened in the West End to rapturous applause from the audience. The reviewers, however, are not as impressed as the playgoers and their savage notices not only shut down the play but ruin Lowry's last chance for a dramatic career. With her future in London not looking bright, at the suggestion of her friend, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivien takes a job in as a script doctor on a major film shooting in Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. There she finds a vibrant movie making scene filled with rising stars, acclaimed directors, and famous actors in a country that is torn between its past and its potentially bright future, between the liberation of the post-war cinema and the restrictions of the Catholic Church that permeates the very soul of Italy.

As Vivien tries to forge a new future for herself, she also must face the long-buried truth of the recent World War and the mystery of what really happened to her deceased fiancé. Every Time We Say Goodbye is a brilliant exploration of trauma and tragedy, hope and renewal, filled with dazzling characters both real and imaginary, from the incomparable author who charmed the world with her novels The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls.

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My Review

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is a story about a woman who has let her past stint her present and must find the will to let go of her past in order to truly live. With poignant themes and a snapshot of a turbulent time in history, it's an overall compelling story and ideal for readers who enjoy languidly immersing themselves in the movie industry in Italy after World War II.

I fell in love with the heroine, Vivian, in the previous book from this author, Bloomsbury Girls, although readers don't need to have read that story to enjoy this one. I was looking forward to seeing what would happen next for her. I liked that her story finally unfolds as so much was a mystery in the other book. Here readers finally get to know her past and why she has made the choices she has and, to an extent, why she is who she is. I liked her overall character arc here as there were some poignant, and pointed, questions that prompted Vivian to turn to self-reflection and possibly face her past enough to really live her present and hope for a future. I also loved a few of the parts that skipped to the past, Levi saving a baby in particular. Then there was a secondary storyline during World War II set in Italy that focused on a girl who worked for the resistance. That was interesting as it unfolded and gave a very honest view of the time period. It also was intertwined eventually with Vivian's story. The last twenty percent of the book was a five-star read for me.

There were several poignant themes throughout this book. Adoption, giving up children, loss, grief, religious turbulence, power, governments, war, censorship... it would go on and on. A lot of these are themes that are very pertinent today. This story gives glimpses into a history that we can look at to help us understand and hopefully learn from. There were also many types of relationships and sides of humanity as they fight to survive and even thrive in a world trying to piece itself back together after WWII, and women trying to fight for their own independence and place.

Here is one part that especially resonated with me:

"Lisetta sits alone in the kitchen, thinking as she so often does about goodness, and how complex the fight for good can be. Yet in the end, goodness is fixed and steady, and not so difficult to spot. It is evil that takes a bewildering number of forms and keeps changing its shape, tricking you with false promises and reasoning, taunting you into resignation. At this stage in the war, Lisetta has absolutely no doubt of either goodness or the truth, and what is necessary for its preservation, no matter what anyone else might call it."

However, I honestly struggled quite a bit with this story. I'd say the first half to three-fourths was maybe three stars for me and I didn't even want to keep reading. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, but more so, connecting emotionally. The story felt very nostalgic and languid, with a pace that somewhat meanders. I didn't feel like the emotions grew in intensity or the story was driven. It's also a bit wordy and immersed in movie culture, so lots of references to what characters were wearing or how they're acting or what was going on generally with the movie studios, their staff, actresses and actors regardless if all that information was pertinent to the story. Lots of information dumping, and name and brand dropping, such as "Guggenheim threw her black Chanel clutch purse onto the writers' table." All of that made this story somewhat disengaging and drag, so it felt a lot longer than it's 300 plus pages. There also was a love interest and I felt like the relationship was very disconnected. As a reader, I wasn't invited in to experience that relationship with her. I felt like that was one example of this whole story feeling very emotionally disconnected, so it didn't fully draw me in, which also made it a story that didn't always keep my interest.

In the end, was it what I wished for? This story had such potential. I didn't connect with it emotionally as I would have liked and as I expected I would have. However, it still is worth the read with the poignant themes, good character arc, and last fith of the book. As I enjoyed this author's previous books, I plan to pick up her next release.

Content: Innuendo, suggestive content, some violence, blunt discussions and references of mature content.
Source: I received a complimentary copy through Austenprose, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Other Books by the Author

(Linked to my reviews.)

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