THE ITALIAN WIFE

Kate Furnivall

The New York Times bestselling author of The Russian Concubine returns with a stunning new novel set in Mussolini’s Italy.

Isabella Berotti is an architect, helping to create showpieces that will reflect the glory of her country’s Fascist leaders. She is not a deeply political sort, but designing these buildings of grandiose beauty helps her forget about the pain she’s felt since her husband was murdered years ago. One of her greatest accomplishments is the clock tower in the town of Bellina, outside Rome.

But as she is admiring it one day,

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Russian Concubine returns with a stunning new novel set in Mussolini’s Italy.

Isabella Berotti is an architect, helping to create showpieces that will reflect the glory of her country’s Fascist leaders. She is not a deeply political sort, but designing these buildings of grandiose beauty helps her forget about the pain she’s felt since her husband was murdered years ago. One of her greatest accomplishments is the clock tower in the town of Bellina, outside Rome.

But as she is admiring it one day, a woman approaches her, asking her to watch her ten-year-old daughter. Minutes later, to Isabella’s horror, the woman leaps to her death from that very clock tower.

There are photos of the woman right after the suicide, taken by Roberto Falco. A propaganda photographer for Il Duce, he is expected to show his nation in the most flattering light. But what Roberto and Isabella have seen reflects a more brutal reality, and in a place where everyone is watching and friends turn on friends to save themselves, their decision to take a closer look may be a dangerous mistake.

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  • Berkley
  • Paperback
  • October 2015
  • 432 Pages
  • 9780425281383

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About Kate Furnivall

Kate Furnivall was born in Wales and currently lives in Devon, England. Married and the mother of two sons, she has working in publishing and television advertising. She drew inspiration for The Russian Concubine from her mother’s experiences as a White Russian refugee in China.

Praise

“Wonderfully drawn and all-too-human characters.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon

“[A] highly accomplished, sweeping epic.”—Glamour (UK)

“Gripping, elegant, and fierce.”—Library Journal

Discussion Questions

The fictional town of Bellina is based on real towns that were constructed under Benito Mussolini’s

totalitarian state during the 1930s. Considering the descriptions of Bellina’s architecture in the

novel, what can you surmise about the core principles of Mussolini’s Fascist regime?

Isabella Berotti admires the architecture in Bellina, but Davide Francolini, the architect responsible

for using inferior building materials, believes Bellina is “based on lies and pretense with its fake

architecture and its fake farms.” What is your perception of Bellina? Is it a beautiful town or a

symbol of Mussolini’s power and corruption—or both?

What compels Isabella to investigate the murder of her husband, Luigi? Do you think she finds

peace after learning the truth about the circumstances of his murder?

Dr. Marco Cantini, Carlo Olivera, and the would-be-farmer Gabriele Caldarone are fathers who

make sacrifices for the well-being of their children. Do you sympathize with the difficult decisions

they make to protect them?

According to Benito Mussolini, a woman’s role is to tend to her husband and have a house full

of bambini. In what ways do the women in the novel such as Isabella, Allegra Bianchi, Francesca

Chitti, and the nuns from the Suore di Santa Teresa convent adhere to the traditional female values

in Mussolini’s Italy? In what ways are they subversive?

The novel details the Blackshirts’ harsh brutality against the townspeople and the cruelty of the

nuns from the convent. Did anything in particular about the portrayal of these authority figures in

the community surprise you?

One of the most shocking scenes in the novel is the assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini’s life.

Did you expect this twist in the novel? What do you think about the rebels’ extreme method to

assassinate Mussolini?

Based on what you know from history, what did you think of the novel’s portrayal of Benito

Mussolini?

There are many colorful characters in the novel such as the energetic chief architect Dottore Martino

and the threatening Colonnello Sepe. Which character do you find the most interesting and why?

Isabella enjoys her work as an architect, but her life is lonely until she crosses paths with Rosa and

Roberto. How do Rosa and Roberto help Isabella to open up and care for others? Do you think

Isabella impacts their lives as well?

Why does Isabella choose to stay in Bellina at the end of the novel? Do you think there is hope for

the town of Bellina to thrive under Mussolini’s totalitarian state?

How does Isabella change from the beginning of the novel to the end of the novel? Do you feel

that her transformation at the end of the novel is a positive one?

Considering the political corruption and the Blackshirts’ ruthlessness in Bellina, do you think that

the political and social themes of this novel, set during the turbulent 1930s in Italy, are relevant

today?

What do you think you’ll take away from this novel? What aspect of the novel will leave the

greatest impression on you?