By Sarah Day
In 1939, a group of gay and bisexual men were rounded up and imprisoned on a tiny Italian island, their lives changed forever. Based on a true story of 1930s Italy, MUSSOLINI'S ISLAND is a powerful exploration of wartime life that will appeal to readers of EARLY ONE MORNING
Seductive, moving and full of insight into the desperate acts committed by individuals when fighting for their lives, MUSSOLINI'S ISLAND is a novel of sexuality and desire, and the secrets we keep locked within us. For any reader of Anthony Doerr's ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE or Virginia Baily's EARLY ONE MORNING.
Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed: their name, their story, their living place. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up.
When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another. His former lover Emilio is constantly agitating for revolution. His old friend Gio jealously watches their relationship rekindle. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
Elena, a young and illiterate island girl on the cusp of womanhood, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. By day, she makes and floats her paper birds, willing them to fly from the island, just as she wants to herself. Sometimes, she is given a message to pass on. She's not sure who they are from; she knows simply that Francesco is hiding something. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all.
Sarah Day lives in London, where she works as a science communicator at the Geological Society. She has written columns for a variety of publications, including the Guardian and The Vagenda. After graduating with a Masters in the History and Philosophy of Science from Durham University, she studied Science Communication at Imperial College London. Mussolini's Island is her first novel.
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- Publication date:
23 Feb 2017
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A fascinating debut...the setting and characters are strong and the story is written with verve. Day is a talent to watch — The Times
Startling. A compassionate and clear-eyed debut which illuminates a grim chamber of 20th century history — Patrick Gale, author of A PLACE CALLED WINTER
[An] impressive debut... Day handles her neatly structured plot with great dexterity as she nudges her readers, one revelation at a time, towards the truth about what has happened and about Francesco's hidden history — Sunday Times
Sarah Day's debut novel is striking: a fascinating evocation of a cruel time in Italian history — Amanda Craig
A beautiful and sadly relevant story of desire, oppression and defiance. I loved this book — Anna Mazzola, author of THE UNSEEING
Stunning... a wonderful haunting evocation of this forgotten and neglected story of war — Mary Chamberlain
A thoroughly absorbing and moving novel, one that convincingly illuminates a strange and largely forgotten aspect of life in Fascist Italy — Andrew Greig
Based on a true story, this is a haunting fictional account of oppression, survival and resilience and a powerful portrayal of sexuality and war — Attitude Magazine
Day's style reminds me of Somerset Maugham - the book is sexy, scary, enraging and beautiful - with a murder mystery at the centre that will keep you guessing — The Pool
A genuine standout amongst literary debuts. This complex, brave and powerful novel, both tender and hard-hitting, features fine writing and a transporting sense of place — Isabel Costello, The Literary Sofa
Based on a true story, this is a haunting fictional account of oppression, survival and resilience - and a powerful portrayal of sexuality and war — Attitude