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‘As gripping as any thriller’ Daily Mail

A grey dawn in 1943: on a street in Rome, two young women, complete strangers to each other, lock eyes for a single moment.

One of the women, Chiara Ravello, is about to flee the occupied city for the safety of her grandparents’ house in the hills. The other has been herded on to a truck with her husband and their young children, and will shortly be driven off into the darkness.

In that endless-seeming moment, before she has time to think about what she is doing, Chiara makes a decision that changes her life for ever. Loudly claiming the woman’s son as her own nephew, she demands his immediate return; only as the trucks depart does she begin to realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, single, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead of her, and now a child in her charge – a child with no papers who refuses to speak and gives every indication that he will bolt at the first opportunity.

Three decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained, self-possessed woman working as a translator and to all appearances quite content with a life which revolves around work, friends, music and the theatre. But always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, the boy from the truck, whose absence haunts her every moment. Gradually we learn of the havoc wrought on Chiara, her family and her friends by the boy she rescued, and how he eventually broke her heart. And when she receives a phone call from a teenage girl named Maria, claiming to be Daniele’s daughter, Chiara knows that it is time for her to face up to the past.

This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful, suspenseful, heartbreaking and inspiring tale of love, loss and war’s reverberations down the years.


A wonderfully evocative historical novel that made me desperate to revisit Rome . . . compelling and haunting
A Case for Books
Early One Morning is a sweeping story, played out in two continents and two different times, each charged with equal emotion. It isn't a book that breaks your heart. It's a book that chips away at your heart with a tiny hammer until you're left a shattered mess, and only Baily can piece it back together again
An enchanting storyteller
As gripping as any thriller . . . crammed with the sort of heart-stopping, heart-breaking scenes that brought a lump to the throat of even this jaded reviewer. Really, really good
Daily Mail
A triumph . . . an exquisitely rendered novel that explores how one powerful and unexpected love can shape a life for ever . . . By turns witty, poignant, tragic and uplifting, this feast of a novel will mark out its author as a powerful voice on the literary scene
Vivid magazine
A real treat: a beautifully written account of the long consequences of war, set in a richly evoked Roman of the 1970s
Philip Hensher, Observer
Early One Morning heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in fiction, with a story that is instantly engaging, and characters that effortlessly lift from the page and are rendered so rich and full that they wrap themselves around you and refuse to let go. Beautifully written and emotionally taut, Virginia Baily's Early One Morning is a powerhouse of a novel
Jason Hewitt, author of The Dynamite Room
[A] wonderfully-imagined novel . . . Virginia Baily is a natural novelist [who] cherishes the details of daily life and this gives the novel so much of its vitality, but it is her ability to evoke tangled emotions and present them convincingly that makes her book remarkable
Allan Massie, Scotsman
Heartbreaking . . . a powerful story of sacrifice, despair and ultimately redemption
Sunday Express
Incredibly sure-footed, a big, generous and absorbing piece of storytelling, fearless, witty and full of flair . . .Even as it forces its characters to lose so much, it asserts itself against those losses with vehemence and hope
Samantha Harvey, Guardian
Intricate, moving - I loved it
Woman and Home
Early One Morning is a story to be savoured. Filled with characters who are far from perfect people, who complement and contrast so well, it really is incredibly well written, the pages fly by so quickly, the story totally consumed me. I was left with lots of questions about identity, about upbringing and parental influence, and how our lives are shaped by those around us
Anne Cater, Random Things Through My Letterbox
Early One Morning isn't just an incandescent novel, but the rarest of reading experiences, offering a view both wrenching and luminous of how love pushes us past what we're capable of, and somehow - impossibly - reclaims us when we're long past saving. Utterly magnificent
Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
Virginia Baily pulls off a triumph with an exquisitely rendered novel that explores how one powerful and unexpected love can shape a life forever
A powerfully moving novel about the long shadows cast by the terrible separations of the Second World War
Cathy Rentzenbrink, Bookseller
Wonderful . . . I was completely inside it from the first pages, just that delicious (rare) feeling of knowing you're in safe hands, this writer isn't going to make a mess of anything, or forfeit your trust or your belief. It managed to be so witty and dry and true . . . Vividly intelligent, gripping and moving and alive
Tessa Hadley
A powerfully moving tale of war's reverberations
Baily subtly tugs at your heartstrings and by the end of her novel you're likely to be as desperate as the women in Daniele's life to discover his fate
Daily Express
Baily offers a poignant, not-too-sappy fable about surviving war's cruelties and crushing losses, and the near-miraculous feats of bonding humans are sometimes capable of
A moving assertion of the power of maternal love to overcome unimaginable obstacles
Sunday Times