After I published my first novel, Burning Embers, I ran interviews on my blog with the main characters, Coral and Rafe. For The Echoes of Love, I thought I’d try something a little different with ‘in their own words’ features, exploring how my characters reveal major facets of their inner worlds through their dialogue. I’m starting with the hero of the book, Paolo Barone.
‘It’s Fate I’m sure that brought us both here today.’
When Paolo meets Venetia, he has the strong sense of being ‘struck by destiny’. He has never met this woman before, and yet he feels he knows her and is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, meant to be with her. A man without a past (he lost his memory a decade ago), he finds comfort in the idea of fate – though until this point it has brought him only a lonely and haunted life. Now, fate has granted him a woman he ardently desires, albeit one who has been scarred by love and is too afraid and too pragmatic to pay heed to notions of destiny. Poor Paolo has his work cut out for him in convincing Venetia that their love is meant to be – but he will work very, very hard to do so because she has brought light to his murky life.
‘Just that one moment of insane beauty before they consume themselves and die… Life ought to hold that once for everyone.’
So says Paolo of a firework display celebrating the turn of the millennium. Paolo is a man who deeply appreciates beauty (see the following quotation), and recognises the wisdom of ‘’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved’. He is deeply emotional, and feels both joy and pain keenly – but he relishes the chance to experience euphoria even if just once, just for a moment. That ethos is what has sustained him through the long years since his accident – the pursuit of authentic feeling, which Venetia stirs within him.
‘I spend a lot of time reading about beautiful things and like to surround myself with them. Albert Einstein said: “The pursuit of beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”’
For me, the key word here is ‘children’. There is a yearning in Paolo to experience the life he has lost – and because he is a lively, passionate man, he is sufficiently connected to his ‘inner child’ to appreciate what’s truly beautiful in the world: his rose garden, for example; a restored mosaic; Venetia, smiling at him with the soft Tuscan sunset lighting her features…
We are made by our past, and mine is gone …
Who are you when you don’t know where you’ve been? This is the question at the very centre of Paolo’s being. His past has been wiped out, and he must forge ahead in crafting a sense of identity based only on the now. Hence when he meets Venetia and is floored by a flood of intense love for her, he must make that meeting, that sensation, part of who he is now. He must have Venetia in his life. He must!
‘Hell is horrid, Paradise is splendid, there is no sentimentality here, no softening of the blows…’
Imagine losing your past; imagine the pain this must cause. Paolo says this while he and Venetia are contemplating a mosaic depicting the Last Supper: ‘on the right, the wrathful river of flames pouring over the naked, tormented damned, with worm-eaten skulls below; to the left, the faithful being ushered into heavenly paradise by beautiful angels; and the aged figures of Adam and Eve kneeling at the blowing of the last trumpet’. But he’s talking beyond the artwork at hand here – he knows only too well that ‘Hell is horrid’ – there is no sentimentality, no softness to his experience of this. And now that he has met Venetia, he has glimpsed the other side: Paradise. Inspirational to him; healing.
It’s like ripping out a part of yourself when you try not to care for someone…
Paolo loves Venetia. He recognises and accepts that soon after their first meeting. But Venetia is determined to hold him at bay: she is frightened; she is defensive. Paolo can’t bear to lose her, so he must take a long view and try to convince her over time to trust him, to trust her own heart. But Venetia will go so far as to shun Paolo when he declares his love for her, and Paolo struggles to don a mask and pretend he does not care. To do so is ‘like ripping out a part of yourself’ – he is a man who is honest about his feelings.
‘Only people who grow old in heart hear the oars’ sob as they float down the river of years.’
Although Paolo is only thirty-eight, he feels older as a consequence of the difficult journey he has taken since his accident. Venetia is his junior by eight years, but as Paolo sees it, more than years divide them: Venetia, to him, is young of heart; Paolo is not. His heart has been aged by the pain it has experienced. Where Venetia talks of the ‘mysterious music’ that gondoliers’ oars make in the lagoon, ‘tickling the water and making it laugh’, Paolo hears sobs. He is a man saddened to the core – but in Venetia, has he found his redemption?