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Before the Earthquake by Maria Allen

Good Housekeeping's view...

Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2010.

The Desmond Elliott Prize is an annual award for a first novel written in English and published in the UK. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the prize is named after the literary agent and publisher, Desmond Elliott. Click here to find out more.

March 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.

Fabulous historical page-turner Before The Earthquake, from debut novelist Maria Allen, sees 15-year-old Concetta piecing together her past after an earthquake devastates her rural Italian village and leaves her with no memory.

What is Good Housekeeping


Before the Earthquake by Maria Allen

Who was the man she met last night?

At the turn of the last century, the Salierno family make a tough living as farmers in the forbidding, mountainous terrain of Southern Italy. One stiflingly hot summer, an earthquake strikes, devastating their village, destroying homes and taking lives. Concetta, their fifteen-year old daughter, is seriously injured — and, on waking from a coma, can’t remember anything in the weeks before the disaster. When Concetta discovers she is pregnant, her family marry her off hastily to neighbours who owe a debt of honour.

For her family, this story is over: covered up; but for Concetta, it is only the beginning. With the help of grieving signora Clara, whose son Peppe lost his life in the earthquake, Concetta sets out to discover the identity of her child’s father and solve the mystery of what happened in those forgotten weeks before the earthquake. In doing so, she must try to balance the demands of her new life with the disturbing half-memories of her past — of loss, love and violence.


'A beautiful, subtle book which transported me to rural Italy at the turn of the century: a deeply moving debut' — Nicola Monaghan

About the Author

Maria Allen

Maria Allen is half Italian, half English and has lived in different parts of Italy and the USA. She has worked as a journalist, in TV research, publishing and most recently in teaching. She lives in Loughborough.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st February 2010


Maria Allen

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Tindal Street Press




Family Drama
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