It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered E. M. Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. These two unlikely people find they have kindred spirits and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses' mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades. Moving from the Tuscan hills to the smog of London's East End and the piazzas of Florence, this is a mischievous, richly peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
The author talks to Natalie Haynes, writer, broadcaster, comedian and author of Pandora's Jar, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, The Amber Fury and The Children of Jocasta.