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In Love and War by Alex Preston

In Love and War

Historical Fiction   Family Drama   Literary Fiction   Reading Groups   Romantic Fiction   eBook Favourites   
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A remarkably captivating book that starts as a slow-burner then sparks into an absolute firecracker of a read. The introduction to Fascism in Florence just before World War Two, when we know life is on the brink of upheaval and collapse, is artfully portrayed by the author. Lazy summer days full of vibrant idealists and English eccentricity is peppered by prejudice, corruption and brutality, deliberately keeping you on edge and apprehensive. As war breaks out, we observe as Esmond the title character is influenced by others, we bear witness as he alters, changes, transforms. The author brings this time, this city, these people, their ideals vividly to life. At times this is an extremely uncomfortable read, however every word, every thought, every emotion feels completely essential. Prepare to sit on the edge of the precipice, prepare for the heartrending plummet of shock and upset, prepare for the impact that a powerful and compelling novel leaves behind. ~ Liz Robinson

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. In 1937, disgraced by a scandalous love affair and sent down from Cambridge, Esmond Lowndes is despatched to Florence to redeem himself; his father, a senior member of the British Union of Fascists, charges him with establishing a B.U.F. wireless station and forging links with Mussolini’s government. But with the coming of war, Esmond questions his allegiance and joins the Resistance, falling in love with a fellow freedom fighter, and always keeping in his sights the despicable head of the Fascist secret police. A stylish compelling story of passion and conflict.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Jane Brown - 'A fascinating debut book by Alex Preston set in 1930s Florence a  this was a great account of fascism, love and war.' Read full review >
  • Evelyn Love-Gajardo - 'and by the end I wanted to jump on a plane and go back to Florence, so well does the author describe this beautiful city.' Read full review >
  • Michelle Hodson - 'The characters were wonderfully drawn and I was totally immersed in the life of Esmond and Eva.' Read full review >
  • Cathy Petersen - 'The young son of a right wing English politician struggles to find his own path in Florence in the early years of the Second World War.' Read full review >
  • Stephanie Blakey - 'This is an amazing book and unlike anything I've ever read before...I was moved to tears and both the story and characters stayed with me once the book was finished. ' Read full review >
  • Glenda Worth - 'The author puts forward a strong character in Esmond who falls for a fellow antifascist during their fight for justice.' Read full review >
  • Helen Lowry - 'A story of love, passion, and history set in Florence before and during the second world war...A good read that I thoroughly recommend.' Read full review >
  • Neil Williams - 'A strangely unbalanced novel although the concluding chapters were very enjoyable.'  Read full review >


In Love and War by Alex Preston

Desperate to prove himself to his politician father, Esmond Lowndes is sent to Italy to forge ties between the British Union of Fascists and Mussolini's government. In Florence, he discovers art and passion amongst the eccentric expatriates and glamorous locals. But with the coming of war Esmond chooses to leave his past behind and joins the Florentine resistance. Finding himself closely bound to his comrades and unexpectedly in love, Esmond becomes involved in undercover operations and assassination plots, culminating in a final mission of extraordinary daring.


Alex Preston's words flow onto the pages as near to poetry as prose can run....his descriptive mystery of language is stunning. I wholeheartedly recommend the book and I will be looking to read more by this author....It is a compelling read that highlights a different perspective from many other WWII historical fiction novels. The Reader's Room blog Rich in historical detail and utterly compelling. Kate Saunders Sunday Times Exhilarating ... Preston's flair for recreating atmosphere and contemporary speech is immaculate. Many layers enrich and deepen the story ... The combination of setting, Renaissance art and two mutually attracted foreigners may remind some of The English Patient. Preston asks the same question as Michael Ondaatje: what is left of civilisation after the inhumanity of war? Today, David still stands in Florence, an imperturbable rebuke to an epoch of torture and terror. Financial Times [R]ich and evocative ... powerfully affecting, ambitious in its scope, precise in its attention to detail and infused with a love for Florence and its motley eccentrics - their courage and their suffering. Stephanie Merritt Observer It's a title befitting an epic, and Preston emphatically delivers in this, his third novel but his first foray into historical fiction. That he's a natural at it is clear .... Vividly imagined and richly atmospheric, Preston's dramatic tale propels the reader towards a tense and tragic final showdown. Daily Mail Moving ... Preston writes, in unaffected but affecting prose, of Lowndes
realisation of what the times demand of him. Nick Rennison The Times Preston

's prose is as eloquent, and as atmospheric, as always. The perfect read to pair with that first sundowner. GQ In Love and War prompts the reflection that evil triumphs because good men have not so much done nothing as done the wrong thing with the best of intentions ... [a] fresh and captivating novel. Literary Review Richly evocative. Independent ...a moving tour de force that will leave you exhilarated by human courage, yet numb with sadness. Country Life A remarkably captivating book that starts as a slow-burner then sparks into an absolute firecracker of a read ... Prepare to sit on the edge of the precipice, prepare for the heartrending plummet of shock and upset, prepare for the impact that a powerful and compelling novel leaves behind. LoveReading Sensitive, intelligent and thrilling . . . a breathless and beguiling take on the subtleties of war. Monocle'

About the Author

Alex Preston

Alex Preston was born in 1979 and lives with his family in London. His first novel, This Bleeding City, was an international bestseller, won the Spear's and Edinburgh first book awards and was selected as one of Waterstones New Voices 2010. His second, The Revelations, was shortlisted for the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. In Love and War is his third novel. Preston writes and reviews for GQ, the Observer and the New Statesman and appears regularly on BBC television and radio. He is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Kent.

Click here to read the 'Ask the Author' feature on Alex Preston.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd July 2015


Alex Preston

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Faber & Faber Fiction an imprint of Faber & Faber


368 pages


Historical Fiction
Family Drama
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
Romantic Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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