Below are synopses for two of my novels:
Somebody Else’s Life
Italian Gianluca Bianchi is a world-class artist who has guarded a secret all his adult life. Only one other person knows what he has kept hidden: Englishman Ralph Nugent – the artist’s close friend and biographer.
Luca grows up in the Tuscan hilltop town of Castagneto Carducci, surviving the tyranny of his tempestuous father. At sixteen, he gains admission to the Livorno School of Art where he meets the ethereal Isabella Robertson. Luca is almost destroyed when Isabella is killed in a road accident, but manages to graduate with distinction, heading to Rome to build a career as an artist. After a couple of years in the Eternal City, Luca moves to Paris as it is the epicentre of the visual arts.
Ralph is born in the seaside town of Skegness, the youngest of three children, and from an early age finds that he is passionate about art. Leaving for university at eighteen, Ralph attends University College and falls in love for the first time. After graduation, he begins to write about art for a living and is invited to work in Paris. This is where he first meets Luca. Their friendship forms swiftly and Ralph accepts the Italian’s offer to work in America on a mural for New York’s financial district.
The two men live in New York City in the early 1930s, until Luca declares that it is time to return to Paris. Ralph, settled with his lifelong companion Tom Burrows, and with a burgeoning academic reputation at Columbia University, decides to stay in America.
Meeting for the first time in years after the Second World War, the Italian confides in Ralph the startling catalyst behind his most celebrated work, a painting known to the world as the ‘Family Triptych’. Luca describes a visit back from Livorno when he and his father Alberto take a camping trip. Over dinner, on the banks of a stream, an inebriated Alberto blurts out that Luca’s sister Grazia is actually his mother, since his marital relations with his wife Silvana had ceased years before, and Alberto had taken his daughter in incestuous sexual congress.
An outraged Luca smashes the frying pan onto his father’s head. Alberto’s skull is crushed, and his body flops into the stream. Dazed, Luca takes flight for Florence and his sister Grazia. He tells her what he finally knows: that she is his sister, but also his mother.
With decades of adulation behind him, Luca dies in 1976, but Ralph lives until the 1990s, during which time he publishes the acclaimed biography of his friend. Only within days of his own death does Ralph write of the secret tragedy Luca carried with him, thus revealing to the world the complexities of those, like Grazia, who live through somebody else’s life.
Once There Were Giants
In September 1899, nineteen-year-old Sarah Morgan travels from Syracuse to Carlton in order to see for herself the unearthed figure of an ancient giant. She meets William Taylor, upon whose land the discovery is to be exhibited. She also encounters William’s housekeeper Matilda, and the irascible Donald Baker – the businessman who has set up the enterprise. Sarah believes the figure to be proof of Biblical allusions to giants.
William encourages Baker to allow Sarah to work for him. Her father, Professor Walter Morgan, who has brought Sarah up alone, reluctantly allows her to do so.
Pastor Ian Hibbert leads Sarah’s grass-roots Pentecostal congregation. This is a place where Sarah, and others, speak in tongues.
One evening, William asks Sarah to stay for supper after work, but she is devastated when he reveals that he is engaged to a woman called Amy.
As December opens, Sarah visits her uncle Jeremiah Karlson, a printer, and asks him to run off a leaflet she has written. Baffled by her apocalyptic words, he rebuffs the proposal.
At home, Sarah finds her estranged mother, Bettina, begging to see her. Bettina tells Sarah that she is cancer-stricken and has only months to live, and implores her daughter to pray for her.
On Christmas Eve, Sarah impulsively takes a last trolley from the city to Carlton. She lights a fire in the marquee to ward off the cold, and falls asleep. When she awakes, the tent is aflame, and smoke has engulfed the giant.
Days later, Sarah awakens in hospital. Upon her discharge, she is arrested for arson, put on trial and committed to a mental institution. Hibbert is her comforter throughout this period of incarceration, and when she is released a year on, she marries him.
Ten years later, both Sarah’s mother and father are now dead. One day, Don Baker’s daughter Mary, a bitter woman in a wheelchair, pays a visit. She tells Sarah that her father’s display of the giant was a way to raise money for treatment to release her from her chair. The fire Sarah caused served to destroy that hope.
More significant for Sarah, however, is Miss Baker’s confirmation that the giant was a fabrication. That evening, she travels up to Lake Onondaga. Her faith crushed, Sarah contemplates the fatal watery abyss before her, and plunges into the icy water to her despairing death.