THE LIFE OF RILEY
Sharon was inspired to write this story to capture the Tottenham of her youth, to recall real incidents that had happened in her own family, and to delight in the resourcefulness of the human spirit in difficult times. She also wanted to pay tribute to her grandmother, who had kept a handwritten notebook recording the hardship of her London life, many elements of which are woven into the narrative of the book.
The narrator, Ray Riley, despite living with alcoholic parents, is determined to make something of himself. The story sees Ray grow from childhood, which includes the death of his much loved older brother during The Great War, through to adulthood and marriage. There is sadness, but Ray’s spirit of endurance gives the reader hope that he will triumph in the end, to live the life of Riley.
In 1957, in a small town in America, where life can sometimes be prejudiced and even a little judgemental, Pearl Fisher is raped, and as a result has a child. The good people of Stirville, unaware of the rape, are indulging in a hearty bout of malevolent gossip, the full force of which is interrupted by the unsatisfying announcement of Pearl’s death.
For the young Tom Carter, Pearl has been someone to protect. For his friend William Kendall, Pearl has been the luminescence of the county, a desirable prize for any young man. For the coroner Paul Beddows, accustomed to the sophistication and indulgences of the city, Pearl Fisher’s death is a tedious, parochial bore.
But for the self-righteous bigots of Stirville, the inquest is a splendid occasion to dress up and rejoice, an opportunity to justify their persecution and denunciation of the wicked girl. Tom Carter squeezes himself into the packed courtroom with only one question in his mind: who in this room killed Pearl Fisher?
THE Last Supper
This is a story of artistic genius and destructive love that immediately sets the reader in a sun drenched Italian landscape of the late 1400s amid the bustling markets of Milan, the developing trade along the Italian canals, the carelessness of the aristocracy and the bigotry of the church.
Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned by the Duke of Milan to paint The Last Supper on the refectory wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Prior, head of the monastery, disapproves of the commission and the chosen painter. Leonardo finds sitters for all of the apostles except Judas and Christ. After scouring Italy a local farmer agrees to sit for Christ.
During the six months it takes to paint Christ, Leonardo encourages the farmer, Vittorio, to expand his business beyond Milan. Vittorio takes his new ideas back to the family and is frustrated by their lack of support. The relationship between Vittorio and his wife Francesca begins to unravel at the same time as the love between his brother Antonio and Francesca’s assistant starts to blossom. Vittorio misinterprets Antonio and Francesca’s camaraderie and in drunken outrage attacks his brother.