The Italian Matchmaker
Dutch edition of 'The Italian Matchmaker'
UK Edition of 'The Italian Matchmaker'
Italian Matchmaker has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of The Year Award.
Gianluca has to admit his life is empty. His high-pressure City job, his seven-figure income, his glossy girlfriends – all have long ceased to satisfy him. His marriage is over and he barely knows his young daughters. In search of serenity and a deeper purpose to his existence, he flees to Italy, to the magical Palazzo Montelimone lovingly restored by his parents, to chill and to assess his future.
But life on the sun-drenched Amalfi coast is not as peaceful as Luca anticipates. The palazzo is filled with his mother’s eccentric friends and haunted by the ghosts of its murderous past.
He meets a woman whose dark eyes are heavy with sorrow and a solemn little boy with an incredible secret.
As he begins to unravel a mystery that has its roots in a long-ago act of violence, Luca is forced to face his greatest fear in exchange for the greatest truth.
I have wanted to write a book about spirits for so long. As a young novelist I didn’t risk writing about something so unconventional; I was too busy trying to get it right. After eight novels, published in over 20 languages and doing well in America, I felt it was time to dig inside my heart and write for myself.
I have seen spirits for as long as I can remember. They were simply part of my reality growing up and I never thought to mention them to anyone. They were shadows who wandered around my room at night, regardless of me. In my teens I shared my experiences with my father, who is a deeply wise and spiritual man. We shared books and spent long car journeys back to boarding school discussing life after death and reincarnation. I read everything but was frustrated reading about other people’s experiences. I knew that I couldn’t progress by reading alone, but didn’t know how to move forwards. Then I met an old friend who introduced me to a wonderful, gifted woman called Susan Dabbs. Primarily a healer, she is a medium, clairvoyant and psychic as well as a warm and big-hearted woman. She immediately suggested that she develop me. I leapt at the chance to be taken in hand by such an inspirational woman. She taught me how to meditate and together we have been on some incredible adventures.
I know that we don’t die, but return home from where we came. I have seen spirits with my own eyes, among them my own grandmother who has appeared to me on about three occasions looking young, radiant and happy, filling the room with her love. I talk about life after death with my friends and people I meet, it was natural that I should want to share my experiences with my readers. I want those who have lost to know that their loved ones are still with them, that they can come and visit whenever they like, that the one thing they will want to communicate is that they are well and happy and Home.
While I was writing this book the little son of dear friends of mine suffered an inoperable brain tumour. A very special spirit, he was only meant to be here for a short time. In those few precious years he touched everyone who met him with a rather extraordinary wisdom, irrepressible humour and boundless love. He is now Home.
I dedicated The Italian Matchmaker to him.
England Spring, 2001
Luca stood alone in the library, gazing out of the window at the glistening gardens of Dinton Manor. The clouds hung low and heavy in the Hampshire sky, releasing a light but persistent drizzle. A couple of blackbirds pecked the grass in search of worms before returning to the towering lime trees that had just begun to sprout new green leaves. The peaceful silence was punctuated every now and then by whoops of laughter that erupted from the drawing-room on the other side of the hall where the rest of the house party were commenting loudly on the Sunday papers or playing Scrabble. Luca found their joie de vivre grating. He had only come for Freya, having lost touch with her over the years. He admired her home, her family, her obvious contentment, and realised that in the last two decades he had somehow drifted off course.
He blew smoke against the glass, lost in a fog of melancholy as he considered his life. He was forty-one. Single again. Father of two little girls entangled in the wreckage of an acrimonious divorce. Unemployed, having quit the City after twenty years as a fund manager, making money with such dedication that making money had become an end in itself – a greedy, empty existence that gave him no satisfaction.
Click here to read the first chapter
“If you’ve finally got that longed for glass of chilled Prosecco in your hand and the Mediterranean is gently lapping at your feet, now is the perfect time to read this gripping romance. Luca is staying at the haunted Palazzo of a tiny Amalfi Coast village as he recovers from a failed marriage and too many years of high-pressured moneymaking in the City. He falls in love with a mysterious woman dressed in mourning clothes and as he learns about her loss he realises that he is surrounded by the spirits of the dead, who reveal to him their long-held secrets. It is as believable as the writing is beautiful.”
Sunday Telegraph, 50 best summer reads
Sunday 27th June 2009
“Montefiore’s latest book, with its supernatural plotline, is a departure from her usual stuff. However, fans will be relieved that all her other ingredients are present and correct: the exotic setting, the beautiful, privileged, mildly conflicted characters and lashings of romance. A holiday read.”
London Life – The Italian Matchmaker – 2009
“Stunning setting, compelling storyline, powerful emotions – it’s Santa Montefiore at her gloriously intoxicating best.”
Staying In – The Italian Matchmaker – 2009
“After just a few pages, I was captivated by this fascinating and mysterious tale. The fictitious palazoo and town were described so believably I could imagein myself there, and the esoteric element brought extra excitement. I love stories that provoke emotion and The Italian Matchmaker did just that. It’d be a great book to take on holiday – especially if you’re heading for Italy.”
‘I felt transported to one of the quaintest parts of Italy by this book, which is an exceptional story of love, life and death and spirit. The sub-plots and absorbing twists made it a real page-turner. It’s extremely well-written with true emotion, and the author has clearly done her research. The message of the book is that good things can often come from bad situations. If, like me, you’re interested in life after death, you’ll find this a thought-provoking and emotional read.
“I was swept away by this passionate tale, and found it impossible to put down. This book has everything you could want – unrequited love, romance, death, mystery and a haunting. It’s total escapism, best enjoyed on the sofa with a frothy cappuccino.”
Spirit & Destiny – The Italian Matchmaker- 2009
‘Montefiore is adept at writing perceptive character analyses and her writing is funny, too, especially when conveying the different but equally complex social traditions that bind family life in Italy and Britain. All that means that readers who might have lamented The Italian Matchmaker’s ghostly goings-on will find themselves caught up in the romance of the novel and unable to put it down once the plot begins to twist with the kind of transfixing narrative that we have come to expect from Montefiore. The Italian Matchmaker will light up even the most gloomy of readers.’
Sunday Express – The Italian Matchmaker – 2009
How did you get the idea for the story in The Italian Matchmaker?
I have always wanted to write about spirits. Having seen them all my life they are part of my reality. However, although they feature a little here and there in my previous novels, I was always nervous about being too unconventional. Then, I reached a point where I had written 8 novels and I felt the time was right to try something different. I’ve enjoyed films like Ghost, The Others and Sixth Sense and know that if people don’t believe in life after death they are intelligent enough to suspend reality and enjoy the story. So, I built a love story around the spiritual theme and based it in Incantellaria, where my fifth novel, Last Voyage of The Valentina was based. I wanted to return to the Amalfi coast and it seemed silly to make up another location. Besides, I rather relished bringing back some old characters.
In the back of the book you write that you wanted to write this book for years. Why was that and why did you not write it sooner?
I think I’ve answered that in question one.
You seem to like to set your stories in southern places. Why is that?
I like to set my novels in England and abroad. I like the contrast between hot southern countries like Latin America, Italy and France, and our rather drizzly, grey England. I lived in Argentina as a 19 year old and based my first novel there because I fell in love with the country. Then decided to base my second novel in Chile, where all my mother’s family live. She is Anglo- Argentine. I loved these settings so much that my following two novels were based in Argentina as well. However, the USA didn’t publish them although they were successfully published all over Europe. So, with my 5th novel, Last Voyage of The Valentina, I moved the setting to Italy and the USA signed me up for a two book deal. With the USA in my vision I based the following novels in Italy and France and they have continued to publish me. My tenth novel comes out next year and is based in South Africa.
Have you visited all the places you write about? Is that important for your writing?
I couldn’t write about a place that I didn’t know and understand. I write about cultures I feel I know well. I went to India and loved it but at this stage I don’t know it enough to write about it convincingly. I’d have to spend more time there and research it thoroughly. I’m lucky that I spent a lot of time in France and Italy as a child and speak the languages (Italian a lot better than my rather poor French!) Having spent so much time in Argentina where the people are a mixture of French, Italian and Spanish, I feel I know them well.
The palazzo of the story, does that exist in real life (can we visit it?) or is it inspired by a real palazzo you’ve seen?
Incantellaria is not a real place. I invented the name from the word ‘incanto’ which means charm, and Pantellaria, which is a little rocky island in the south of Italy. I imagined it to be on the Amalfi coast, near Sorrento. I invented the Palazzo in my novel Last Voyage of The Valentina.
Spirits are an important part of the story and you write in the back of the book that you’ve seen spirits yourself all your life. Can you tell us a bit more about how that works and what impact that has (had) on your life?
I grew up seeing spirits at night, in that half awake, half asleep state. I knew instinctively that they weren’t real people, but they did scare me so I’d turn on the lights with my heart pounding. They were shadowy people wandering around without a care for me. As I grew older I became interested in the esoteric, something I share with my father. We read the same books and discussed the subject on long country walks. He certainly fuelled my interest and understood my nocturnal spirit world, although he has never seen one himself. I met a wonderfully gifted woman about 8 years ago called Susan Dabbs. She’s a healer, clairvoyant, psychic, medium and I have been developing with her, slowly but surely. Now I welcome spirits. I know that we don’t die but return home. I know that our deceased loved ones are with us, watching over us. I also know that they want us to know that they live on and are happy. That’s the message that always comes through loud and clear – the message I want to pass on to people through my novel.
The main character Luca has quit his hectic job and realises that there is much more to life than work and money. There seems to be a message in your book that people should regularly evaluate their life to see if they get everything out of it that they want. Is that something you’ve got experience with, reassessing your life and starting over? Is this something you think everybody should do regularly?
I don’t like to preach in my novels, I just put things out there for readers to think about if they wish to, and for me too. I’m constantly asking myself the big questions and observing those around me. When life is whittled down to the bare essential, all that is left is love. Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy for us to wake up and realise this. We are seduced by the glamour of the material world and often forget the important things. Luca realises he has spent his life making money at the expense of his family. In the end he chooses a simpler life with the woman he loves, in the beauty of nature where he can smell the orange blossom and listen to the birds….that is where I am happiest! I suppose when my novels are whittled down to the bare essentials all that is left is love – and to me there is nothing in life that is more important or necessary for our happiness.
When did you start writing? Did you for instance keep diary’s as a child or was writing something you started later in life? Did you ever think/ hope that you’d become a writer?
Writing is part of the way I am. I’ve always done it and have always kept a diary. I never believed I would become a published author, but I always knew that I would write, if only for myself. I can’t imagine not writing.
Does writing get easier now that you’ve published several books?
The older I get the wiser I get, the more of life I have experienced and observed and the better my writing gets. I also know how to do it now after so many novels! But there’s always room for improvement and with each novel I try to make it better than the last.
How do you write a book? Do you map out the story or do you just start writing? Do you know where the story goes when you start writing Each book is different.
I always know the storyline and the main characters, however I don’t always know how they’re going to end. The mystery books are plotted out in greater detail, the sagas are developed as I write them and sometimes I’ll include a character I end up falling in love with, who consequently takes over! Most important is the theme. Without that I have no plot. The theme is the core around which I weave my characters and storyline.
What does your workweek look like? Your husband is a writer too, do you write in the same room and at the same time or … ? Are you writing all day long or is there a specific time/ place that you write best?
I write in my office at the top of the house. It’s cream coloured with a big bookcase fitted into one wall housing all my novels in all their different languages. I have a big glass desk and a view overlooking gardens. It’s very leafy. I light scented candles and listen to music. It’s my little sanctuary and I love it. My husband writes downstairs. I take the children to school at 8 and am at my desk at 9. I write until 3, when I leave to pick the children up from school. But I don’t necessarily write every day and I take long lunches with friends! I’m disciplined because I love what I do and can’t wait to get back to my computer! I never suffer from writers block, but I do get tired due to a hectic life and I can’t write when I’m tired!
Your writing style is quite detailed. I’ve not seen many authors do that. Why do you go in so much detail, is that maybe something you miss or like in books that you read yourself?
I’m a sensualist. I love creating a sense of place so that my readers really feel they are there. And yes, I love reading sensual books. Shadow of The Wind was wonderfully gothic and evocative. I like to be carried away.
What do you read yourself? Do you have favourite authors or books?
I love reading, but with children and writing my own books I don’t have a great deal of time. I read the classics to inspire me in my own writing: Austen, Du Maurier, Dumas, Maupassant, Garcia Marquez. I also love Fannie Flagg, Mary Wesley, Joanne Harris, Rose Tremain.
Have you started writing a new book already? Can you tell me a bit more about that?
My 10th novel, The Affair, comes out next March and I have an idea for the next. It’s about an artist, based in Cornwall and Tuscany. I’m excited about it, but will take the summer to plan it and begin writing in Sept.
What are your plans for the future? Anything else you want to try or do?
As long as there are people in the world there will be stories. So, I’ll continue to do what I’m doing. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else!