Christi Phillips lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her interest in European history has led her all over the Continent. The Rossetti Letter is her first novel.
What was your favourite childhood book?
Itâ€™s difficult to narrow it down to one. I have always been an avid reader. When I was eight years old I had an epiphany when I realized what an author was, and from then on, when I found I book that I liked, I read the authorâ€™s entire body of work (I still do this, actually). In this manner I read most of the contents of my local childrensâ€™ library. I loved Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Narnia books. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Lâ€™Engle was also a great favourite. I remember being completely mesmerized by an English novel called Summer Birds by Penelope Farmer. I liked one book so much I hid it in my closet so I wouldnâ€™t have to return it: Daddy was a Numbers Runner by Louise Meriwether. Itâ€™s set in Harlem, quite realistic (I believe itâ€™s a memoir) very compelling and unforgettable. But it isnâ€™t really a childrenâ€™s book so I must have been a bit older, perhaps eleven or twelve. And although obviously I didnâ€™t read them until I was an adult, I would include the Harry Potter books. I think theyâ€™re terrific.
Which book has made you laugh?
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Blockbuster by Douglas McGrath and Patricia Marx
Naked; Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Which book has made you cry?
Iâ€™m having a difficult time thinking of any; I guess Iâ€™m not easily moved to tears. Oh, waitâ€”The Great Gatsby.
Which book are you reading at the moment?
I always have a number going at any given time: right now itâ€™s Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe; Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge by Bruce Feiler; John Hall and His Patients: The Medical Practice of Shakespeareâ€™s Son-in-Law by Joan Lane; Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason by Jessica Warner; and The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber.
Iâ€™m reading all of these as research for the book Iâ€™m currently writing; only one is a novel. I always wish I had more time to read fiction, especially fiction that has absolutely nothing to do with what Iâ€™m working on.
Which book would you give to a friend as a present?
My own, of course!
Which other writers do you admire?
Michael Cunningham for the beauty and clarity of his prose; the first chapter of â€œThe Hoursâ€ is especially stunning. Michael Chabon, because of his gift for language and his compassion for his characters. Tolstoy for his ability to communicate the experience of transcendence. Jane Austen for her deft, sly wit. Evelyn Waugh for his sharp wit. Virginia Woolf for her technical brilliance. Ditto Nabokov. Kurt Vonnegut because I fell in love with him as a teenager and have never fallen out of love with him; he just passed away so Iâ€™m reading Breakfast of Champions for what is probably the 20th time.
A fascinating novel set in Venice â€“ Alessandra Rossetti, a 17th century courtesan, lives dangerously, being dragged into espionage, murder and treachery, whilst trying to protect the man she loves. Simultaneously, the novel tells us of the 21st century historical sleuth who traces Alessandraâ€™s path and finds romance tugging at her own heartstrings from unexpected sources in this beautiful and romantic city. The Rossetti letter is a real page-turner, yet full of fascinating historical details of early 17th century Venice and its people and customs. This book will provide you with perfect summer holiday reading, whilst giving you plenty to mull over afterwards.
Alessandra Rossetti, a courtesan, becomes entangled in a conspiracy that threatens to destroy seventeenth century Venice. She alone has the power to reveal a Spanish plot. Centuries later, Claire Donovan is writing her dissertation on the young courtesan. She knows that Alessandra wrote a secret letter exposing the Spanish conspiracy. But how Alessandra learnt of it, or what happened to her afterwards is still a mystery. Claire hopes to uncover the secrets of the courtesan's life within Venice's ancient libraries and prove Alessandra deserves her place in history. But upon arrival in Venice, Claire learns that Cambridge professor Andrew Kent is to present a paper, asserting that Alessandra was a co-conspirator of the Spanish. If he can prove this, Claire's work and academic career will be ruined. She knows she must discover the facts in order to save her own future. And as she races to find the truth, the beauty and romance of Venice will also bring the passion back into Claire's own life.