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Monday, May 20, 2024

Review: Every Time We Say Goodbye

Title: Every Time We Say Goodbye

Author: Natalie Jenner

Publisher: 14th May 2024 by St. Martin's Press

Pages: 336 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction | Women’s Fiction 

Rating: 4 crowns


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 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.

My Thoughts

Natalie Jenner’s debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, was a wonderful read back in 2020. She followed it up with Bloomsbury Girls, taking one of the characters from her debut novel to a London bookstore. In her latest, Every Time We Say Goodbye, Natalie takes one of the characters, Vivian, from the bookstore to post-war Italy working as a script doctor in the movies after her play is a flop in London. 

“We make the truth. We’re selling a world that doesn’t exist.” “That’s so cynical.” “What are you making, then?” “What the world could be.”

Natalie was inspired by the world famous Cinecittà movie studio in Rome that had been used as a war refugee camp in the 1940s. Set in the la dolce vita of mid 1950s Rome, the story explores a very unique time period. Lead FMC Vivian is working as a script doctor and carries her own personal war wounds wherever she goes. Her fiance disappeared in Italy during WW2 and she is searching for closure after making some life changing decisions. 

‘The only thing that will save you is perspective - and that, only the passing of time can bestow.’

Natalie does an excellent job of conveying the complexity of Italian political, economic, and cultural life in the 1940s and ’50s. From the glamour of movie actresses like Ava Gardner and Sophia Loren making cameo appearances, to the policing and censorship of some movies by the Catholic Church. In many ways the past continues to haunt from its fascist and German occupation days and deep contradictions are evident. 

‘… contradictions of Italy at work here: a former Fascist regime that had somehow shape-shifted into an ostensible democracy that was heavily influenced by a censorial church and half-heartedly administered by the police. Yet the one thing all these factions took seriously was cinema.’

The novel encompasses so much, from love and conflict, faith and censorship, war and orphans, glamour and moviemaking, fashion and food - it has to all. Whilst there is much to learn about Rome, the Church and politics of the day, in some ways it feels like a reflective piece with characters coming to terms with life after traumatic events. You don’t have to have read the previous novels to enjoy Every Time We Say Goodbye as the focus is on learning how to live after such tragedy. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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