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Still Life by Sarah Winman
Historical fiction

Still Life

by Sarah Winman

Quick take

As the end of WWII nears, an art historian (and maybe spy) forges a rare and impactful friendship with a young soldier.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NoQuotationMarks

    No quotation marks

Why I love it

Denny S. Bryce
Author, Wild Women and the Blues

Still Life by Sarah Winman may span forty years, but each moment, character, location, meal, and glass of wine (or grappa) combine to deliver a richly crafted emotional tale that will stay with you long after you read the novel’s last words.

It’s 1944 in the Tuscan hills of Italy, where we first meet Evelyn Skinner, 64, with whom I immediately fell in love. The art historian is funny, clever, irreverent, quirky, and sarcastic—and let’s not leave out, surprisingly level-headed. When a character jumps off the page like this you know you’re in for a ride. But early in the novel, Evelyn has a chance meeting with 24-year-old Ulysses Temper, a globe-maker and soldier, during a bombing raid. Two ships in the night, so to speak, have a long chat and then depart, going their separate ways, into their separate lives—but the encounter leaves a mark.

Over the next forty years, we meet unforgettable characters, fall in love with a pub, and discover great food and art. This novel is the kind of historical fiction I love to read—a thoroughly researched and informative story that explores eternal themes like friendship, love, and family. You will relish getting to know Winman’s lush characters and reading her masterful prose, descriptions, and dialogue. Still Life is a must-read.

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It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.

Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other, and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life—and of those who love him—for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family, and fate.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Still Life.

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1747 ratings
  • 45% Love
  • 35% Like
  • 16% Dislike
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