Book Rec: The Invitation by Lucy Foley
“You know, my friend, I have found that the best way to come to terms with one’s past is like this, through talk. It is painful, but, little by little, it helps to diffuse its power.”
This book is a marked difference from the other novels I’ve read by Lucy Foley, but I think the historical novel had all the elements in a compelling love story. The repressed longing in the 1950s and ever-present secrets had me turning the page until the end.
Rome, 1953: Hal, an itinerant journalist flailing in the post-war darkness, has come to the Eternal City to lose himself and to seek absolution for the thing that haunts him. One evening he finds himself on the steps of a palazzo, walking into a world of privilege and light. Here, on a rooftop above the city, he meets the mysterious Stella. Hal and Stella are from different worlds, but their connection is magnetic. Together, they escape the crowded party and imagine a different life, even if it's just for a night. Yet Stella vanishes all too quickly, and Hal is certain their paths won't cross again.
But a year later they are unexpectedly thrown together, after Hal receives an invitation he cannot resist. An Italian Contessa asks him to assist on a trip of a lifetime -- acting as a reporter on a tremendous yacht, skimming its way along the Italian coast toward Cannes film festival, the most famous artists and movie stars of the day gathered to promote a new film.
Of all the luminaries aboard — an Italian ingénue, an American star, a reclusive director — only one holds Hal in thrall: Stella. And while each has a past that belies the gilded surface, Stella has the most to hide. As Hal's obsession with Stella grows, he becomes determined to bring back the girl she once was, the girl who's been confined to history. An irresistibly entertaining and atmospheric novel set in some of the world's most glamorous locales, The Invitation is a sultry love story about the ways in which the secrets of the past stay with us — no matter how much we try to escape them.
Discussion Guide for The Invitation
The Contessa seems to collect “needy” people under her wing. What does this show about her and her own need to rescue others?
Each person on the boat had something to hide, yet Hal is able to draw it out from them. Do you have this ability with others? What personality traits does he utilize to earn such trust?
Did you see the ending coming?
How does money corrupt both Hal and Stella? In what ways does it drive them forward?