- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books (April 19, 2016)
An epic love story featuring an Italian singer and a British dancer, set against the backdrop of war-torn England.
The first meeting between Antonio and Olivia at the Paradise Ballroom is brief, but electric.
Years later, on the dawn of World War II, when struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron, he recognizes her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia fears Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist–but when Italy declares war on England, the impact threatens to separate them forever.
The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties amid the most devastating war in human history.
Buy, read, and discuss The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom
ALISON LOVE is the author of the historical novels Mallingford and Serafina. Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and in 2013 her story Sophie Stops the Clock was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. Alison has worked in the theater, television, and public relations. The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is her American fiction debut.
Connect with Alison
The first thing that struck me about this novel, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom, was that it has a very specific soundtrack. We meet Antonio when he is a temporary singer at the eponymous Paradise Ballroom, and song titles are peppered throughout the story. All those lovely standards, classics, even if they’re not classical, didn’t just set the period for this novel; they set the tone, and they did so brilliantly. As a musician, I found that the mentions of songs peppered throughout the narrative really kept me hooked.
Similarly, the use of language in this novel was just thrilling. Alison Love’s biography (see above) says that she’s worked in theatre, so maybe that’s where she honed her ear for dialogue, but she also excels at evocative description. Read this paragraph from early in the book:
In Soho one of the cafes, Ricci’s, was open still. Antonio could hear the rise and fall of voices punctuated by the twang of a mandolin. He thought of Maurice Goodyear’s parchment face, of eanie’s violent scent, of the way he had fluffed a high note in “Night and Day.” He tried not to think about the tango dancer, and the terrible thing she had done to her own body.
And then read this one, from near the end:
A flock of rooks flew across the iron-gray sky, cawing as they landed in the beech trees beyond the orchard. Olivia was standing on the terrace where once, on a sunlit evening, she had drunk juniper-scented Negronis with Uncle Dickie. She was huge and stately in a loose crimson dress, her hair knotted untidily at her neck.
Language like this is just delicious to read, to submerge yourself in.
Of course, language and music aren’t enough, there has to be plot an character, but again, Love’s work is outstanding. Olivia and Antonio are the central figures of the novel, and they are brilliantly written: flawed, funny, sad, passionate, vivid, real people., but the supporting characters, Bernard, Danila, Filomena, others, are equally well-defined. The story – two people who meet and connect, who are constantly drawn to each other despite having separate lives, and being committed to other people – is a familiar one, but even though the bones of the plot are familiar, mixing it into a period piece that focuses on the Italian experience of World War II makes it fresh and interesting.
I didn’t just enjoy reading The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom; I felt as though I’d been transported by it.
I hope you let yourself be transported, as well.
Goes well with a glass of Merlot and a smoky baritone.
One lucky reader in the United States or Canada will win a paperback copy of this book. To enter, find me on Twitter (@Melysse), follow me, and retweet my tweet about this book review OR leave a comment here (you must use a valid email address) and tell me about a song that has particular meaning for you.
The winner will be chosen by me, and their information will be forwarded to the tour host/publicist for fulfillment. This may take up to six weeks after the day of the end of this blog tour.
This giveaway opportunity is open until noon, central time, on Monday, May 23rd.
Monday, April 18th: Luxury Reading
Monday, April 18th: The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, April 19th: The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, April 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, April 21st: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, April 25th: Books a la Mode – guest post/giveaway
Tuesday, April 26th: Mom’s Small Victories
Wednesday, April 27th: BookNAround
Thursday, April 28th: Just Commonly
Friday, April 29th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, May 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, May 3rd: The Best Books Ever
Wednesday, May 4th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, May 5th: Write Read Life
Monday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, May 10th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, May 11th: A Bookaholic Swede
Friday, May 13th: Broken Teepee
Monday, May 16th: Diary of an Eccentric