Details

ISBN-10: 168137644X
ISBN-13: 9781681376448
Publisher: New York Review of Books
Publish Date: 05/24/2022
Dimensions: 0.00" L, 0.00" W, 0.00" H

Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir

Paperback

Price: $19.95

Overview

By one of the finest English writers of our time, a luminous memoir that travels from southern Italy to the banks of the Nile, capturing a lost past both personal and historical.

Marina Warner’s father, Esmond, met her mother, Ilia, while serving as an officer in the British Army during the Second World War. As Allied forces fought their way north through Italy, Esmond found himself in the southern town of Bari, where Ilia had grown up, one of four girls of a widowed mother. The Englishman approaching middle age and the twenty-one-year-old Italian were soon married. Before the war had come to an end, Ilia was on her way alone to London to wait for her husband’s return and to learn how to be Mrs. Esmond Warner, an Englishwoman.

Ilia begins to learn the world of cricket, riding, canned food, and distant relations she has landed in, while Esmond, in spite of his connections, struggles to support his wife and young daughter. He comes up with the idea of opening a bookshop, a branch of W.H. Smith’s, in Cairo, where he had spent happy times during the North African campaign. In Egypt, however, nationalists are challenging foreign influences, especially British ones, and before long Cairo is on fire.

Deeply felt, closely observed, rich with strange lore, Esmond and Ilia is a picture of vanished worlds, a portrait of two people struggling to know each other and themselves, a daughter’s story of trying to come to terms with a past that is both hers and unknowable to her. It is an “unreliable memoir”–what memoir isn’t?–and a lasting work of literature, lyrical, sorrowful, shaped by love and wonder.

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Reviews
"Wonderful–a brave, inventive, touching distillation of memory and imagination, shimmering with images, sounds and scents, conjuring a clash of lives, worlds and words." –Jenny Uglow

"Talismanic objects–handmade English brogues, nasturtium sandwiches, an Egyptian cigarette tin–prove the perfect springboard for Warner's superb visual imagination and historical acumen in this fine memoir, which touchingly evokes, in vivid sensual detail, the irreconcilable contradictions in her parents' lives within the complex postwar cultural milieus they traversed." –Victoria Nelson

"An entrancing weave of memoir, history, autobiography, and fiction, this adventurous book voyages through time and space to rediscover, reimagine, and reinvent a lost world. One of Marina Warner's most beautiful works." –Michèle Roberts

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Details

ISBN-10: 168137644X
ISBN-13: 9781681376448
Publisher: New York Review of Books
Publish Date: 05/24/2022
Dimensions: 0.00" L, 0.00" W, 0.00" H
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