The Invitation

Lucy Foley crafts a subtle, dramatic story of guilt, desire and long-held secrets in her second novel, The Invitation. Professionally and personally adrift after World War II, Hal Jacobs escapes to Rome to build a new life as a journalist. He spends his free time wandering the streets of the Eternal City, mostly content in his anonymity. When he meets an enigmatic woman, Stella, at a glamorous party, Hal expects their chance encounter to remain just that. But a year later, Hal and Stella both end up on a yacht making its way down the Italian Riviera, sailing toward Cannes for the premiere of a new film. 

Foley (The Book of Lost and Found) narrates her story through both Hal's and Stella's voices, occasionally shifting between them mid-chapter. Hal suspects there is much more to Stella than her marriage to a wealthy American. Readers learn about Stella's childhood, and the guilt and grief she carries, long before he does. Foley also moves between 1950s Italy and 1930s Spain, when Stella's homeland and her family both fell apart. However, Stella and Hal aren't the only ones keeping secrets, and by the end of the voyage, several characters are facing a sea change. (Foley's minor characters, especially a regal contessa and an elderly film director, are also well drawn.) Lushly described settings and Foley's keen but compassionate eye for her characters combine to make The Invitation a beautiful, bittersweet journey of loss and redemption. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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