The Water Colourist
by Beatrice Masini, Macmillan.
A rich, verdant tapestry from Milanese children’s writer Beatrice Masini, who won an Italian award for best historical novel for this classic creation. Herself a translator – of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling – Masini’s work has been mouthwateringly translated from ripe Italian into a feast of English prose. Independent, well-educated artist Bianca, 20, has been commissioned to paint the magnificent plants in the grounds of poet Don Titta’s Milan residence, where he lives with his malevolent mother, innocent wife and five “delicate as daisies” children. Floating among Masini’s cleverly etched backdrop of the villa court – indifferent priest, compliant nanny, suspicious tutor – Bianca slips into reverie as she paints, musing in her non-19th-century way of women’s thinking. “Come dawn, we [women] were all Cinderellas, we had to slip back into our grey rags,” she fumes, as suitors swarm around the flowerbeds. With a woman “ghost” in a veil, there’s plenty of plot, but essentially this is the birth of a new literary heroine, “passionate, dynamic… Italian”, says the author.