To relieve her widowed mother’s financial burden and escape England’s gray drizzle, Miss “Billy” Brown goes to Tindaro. Her lack of Italian is no handicap for her job at Julia Lord’s English library and tea shop.
Before long, even Tindaro’s misfit exile community are shocked when novelist Oscar Slade decides to add the lovely and innocent Billy to his conquests through marriage. His jealous housekeeper prevents the marriage by murdering Slade before drowning herself.
Billy, who knew nothing of Slade’s reputation, hardens herself against her loss. She turns her energies to business, helping transform Julia’s modest operation into a thriving service agency.
Thomas Isherwood. an architect gassed in the war, has come to Italy to repair the damage to his lungs. In her professional capacity, Billy helps Isherwood locate and furnish a villa. In her unprofessional capacity, Billy helps him repair the damage to his emotions and softens her own in the process.
In outline, this plot sounds trite, but the novel has depth and perception.
Warwick Deeping’s keen eye for character and detail raise Exile above the pedestrian, subtly revealing the far-reaching consequences of youthful choices. His portrait of her mother’s relationship with Billy is a gem, but it’s only one of the nuanced portraits that make Deeping’s readers feel they are making discoveries about real people.
By Warwick Deeping
Alfred A. Knopf, 1930
1930 bestseller #2
My grade B+
©2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni