Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: The House at Zaronza

Author Vanessa Couchman
Looking for an end-of-summer read that will have you sleuthing for ancestors on your family tree or better yet, making plans to vacation in Corsica? Look no further! The House at Zaronza written by my friend, Vanessa Couchman is just the book for you. Published last month by Crooked Cat Publishing, this historical novel has it, betrayal, reconciliation, and war all vividly staged against the beautiful Corsican landscape of the early 1900s.

Cap Corse
When Rachel Swift arrived in Zaronza, she felt strangely at home in the Corsican village previously unknown to her. She was there to search for information about her grandmother whom she had recently learned was born in Corsica. What Rachel found were love letters and the handwritten life story of Maria Orsini, a woman closely connected to her grandmother. Forbidden by her family to marry the man she loves and forced into a loveless marriage with her cousin, Maria endures a hard, insulated life in the highly patriarchal Corsican culture. In direct conflict with the norms of her times, though, she eventually becomes first a businesswoman and later a volunteer nurse at the Western Front during WWI. Her story is one that will have you turning the pages long after you should be asleep for the night!

Rugged Corsican countryside
Vanessa and her husband have loved Corsica since their first visit to the island in 2003. They have been back several times since. It was on one of those visits that Vanessa was inspired to write the story of Maria Orsini. I sat down with her over lunch in her lovely restored French farmhouse, and she told me the story of real handwritten love letters framed and on display at the bed and breakfast where she and Per were staying. The letters were written by the village schoolteacher in the early 1900s to his sweetheart whose family disapproved of their relationship. The couple hid their letters in an old Corsican shrine which served as their private mail box. While none of her letters have ever been found, his letters indicate that their relationship was doomed. She married another, and he eventually emigrated. This was enough to spark Vanessa's imagination and The House at Zaronza was born

Typical Corsican shrine
I left Vanessa's with both an appreciation for just how far women's rights have advanced in the last 100 years as well as one of Vanessa's research books about Corsica: Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica by Dorothy Carrington. I think I've added a visit to Corsica to my bucket list!
Corte in central Corsica
The House at Zaronza is available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. It is also on sale at SmashWords and from the publisher, Crooked Cat.

All photographs are courtesy of Vanessa Couchman and used with her permission.

1 comment:

  1. I must read this Evelyn . We went to Corsica once, its lovely and I would love to go back one day.