#BookReview - The Silk Weaver's Wife by Debbie Rix

An Italian daughter and an English journalist.  Their unforgettable stories cross centuries as past and present weave together in this beautifully moving summer read.

1704: Anastasia is desperate to escape her controlling and volatile father and plans to marry in secret. But instead of the life she has dreamed of, she finds herself trapped in Venice, the unwilling wife of a silk weaver.

Despite her circumstances, Anastasia is determined to change her fate …

 2017: Millie wants more from her relationship and more from her life. So when her boss Max abruptly ends their affair, she takes the opportunity to write a feature in Italy.

Staying in a gorgeous villa, Millie unexpectedly falls in love with the owner, Lorenzo. Together they begin to unravel an incredible story, threaded through generations of silk weavers.

And Millie finds herself compelled to discover the identity of a mysterious woman in a portrait...

I downloaded The Silk Weaver's Wife a little unsure about whether I would really enjoy it. I love historical fiction but tend to be drawn to darker novels. However, the dual narrative in this tempted me to give it a try and I'm very glad I did. This is a beautifully evocative novel, the two stories complementing each other as the connection between them is touchingly revealed as the book progresses.
The 2017 setting features Millie, an award winning journalist whose career success isn't matched in her personal life. A long affair with a married man has left her with little more than 'soulless white china.' When she is asked to go to Italy to write a feature on an initiative to reinvigorate the silk industry there she doesn't only uncover a mystery about an unknown woman in a portrait, she also discovers what it is she really wants from life. If this book was just about Millie I possibly wouldn't have picked it up, I'm not really a big reader of romantic fiction. That said, it is a lovely, emotional story. There aren't any big surprises but then romantic novels aren't about big, dramatic twists, they're about wanting a couple to fall in love and enjoying the journey to the perhaps inevitable but no less satisfactory conclusion. And The Silk Weaver's Wife does that very well. Millie is a believable, relatable character. She may be the other woman in an affair, but she is self-aware and likeable and it's not difficult to hope she ends up with the right man.
For me though, the real strength of The Silk Weaver's Wife is Anastasia's story. I was gripped from the start by the chapters set in the early 1700s. Anastasia's father is a vicious, brutal man and it's thanks to his horrific actions that she finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive marriage. Anastasia's treatment in the early chapters mean this part of the book isn't an easy read, nevertheless it is compelling. I was willing her to escape, there are scenes here of genuine nail-biting tension. Anastasia is a character with a tenacious spirit, readers will be desperately hoping she eventually has the life she deserves.
The Silk Weaver's Wife is divided into three, the name of these parts mirror the arcs both Anastasia and Millie experience;  the Silken Thread of Part I applicable both to Anastasia's obvious entrapment but also to Millie's affair with Max, which has seen her trapped in what has become a stagnant relationship; the Metamorphosis of Part II sees them both having to learn to accept the changes in their life leading to their Regeneration in Part III when they eventually realise what it is they want from their lives. Their progress from beginning to end is sometimes frustrating, often moving and ultimately a touching, absorbing read. Debbie Rix has interwoven an emotional story of love and loss with fascinating historical details. I doubt I'm the only one who will be moved to want to learn more about Italy's silk history. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of some real life historical figures which really added to the novel's authenticity. The book is a love letter to Italy too, this beautiful, romantic country is brought vividly to life. I can definitely see The Silk Weaver's Wife being a popular holiday read this summer, the warmth of the Italian sun is matched by this captivating and heartwarming novel.
My grateful thanks to the publishers for inviting me to read a copy through Netgalley.

The Silk Weaver's Wife is published by Bookouture, You can follow Debbie Rix on Twitter as @debbierix and her website is here. Make sure to follow Bookouture too, for more news on brilliant digital fiction.

About the Author

Debbie Rix began her career at the BBC where she was a presenter on BBC’s Breakfast Time before moving to present a variety of factual programmes. She is now a Communications Consultant, specialising in the charitable sector.

Secrets of the Tower is inspired by Debbie’s own story: her husband, a television producer, had a stroke whilst making a film for Channel 4 about the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 1990s. The novel also reflects her love of architecture – an interest which is hard-wired into her DNA as both her parents were architects. Many of the historical characters featured are based on real people.