I suspect when it comes to biographies and autobiographies, the memories we end up reading in books are similar to those of the stories Viscontessa Elena dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola, or simply Elena, tells to her memoir writer, Cesca – not the whole truth with the parts that are damaging or embarrassing simply painted over or left out all together.
The pair are the main characters in Karen Swan’s The Rome Affair (PGC Books, Pan Macmillan), which released May 2.
We meet Cesca, a former barrister turned The Rome Affair blogger, who returns a stolen handbag to the viscontessa that contained nothing but an unopened letter from her long-dead husband. Elena asks Cesca to be her autobiographer, insisting she not read anything about her online.
We learn about Elena and her life through the meetings she has with Cesca, but then we learn the real stories through Elena herself as each chapter switches between the present, including a growing relationship between Cesca and a family friend of Elena’s as well as tension between the two women as Cesca tries to find the truth, and Elena blocks her way, and the past where we get to meet the real Elena and learn about some of the true horrors she has faced in her life.
The book is also a reminder to us all that just because you were born rich, doesn’t mean life was always easy, or even good.
The Rome Affair was a fabulous book that kept me reading until I finished it. I thought I knew what was going on, but turned out I was completely wrong. What an ending.