Excerpt from The Garden of Evil by David Hewson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Garden of Evil

By David Hewson

The Garden of Evil

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One

Aldo caviglia glimpsed his reflection in the overhead mirror of the crowded 64 bus. He was not a vain man but, on the whole, he approved of what he saw. Caviglia had recently turned sixty. Four years earlier he had lost his wife. There had been a brief, lost period when drink took its toll, and with it his job in the ancient bakery in the Campo dei Fiori, just a few minutes' walk from the small apartment close to the Piazza Navona where they had lived for their entire married life. He had escaped the grip of the booze before it stole away his looks. The grief he still felt marked him only inwardly now.

Today he was wearing what he thought of as his winter Thursday uniform, a taupe woollen coat over a brown suit with a knife-edge crease running down the trousers. In his mind's eye he was the professional man he would have been in another, different life. A minor academic, a civil servant, an accountant perhaps. Someone happy with his lot, and that, at least, was no lie.

It was December the eighth, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christmas stood on the horizon, its presence finally beginning to make itself known beyond the tawdry displays that had been in store windows for weeks. Every good Catholic would attend mass. The Pope would venerate two famous statues of the Virgin, in the Piazza di Spagna and at Santa Maria Maggiore. Catholic or not, families would flock to the city streets, to shop, to eat, to gossip, to walk around and enjoy the season. In the vast racetrack space of the Piazza Navona, which followed the lines of the Imperial stadium that had preceded it, the stalls occupied almost every last square metre: toys for the children, panini of porchetta carved straight from the warm pig's carcass for the parents, and the Christmas witch, La Befana, everywhere, on stockings and pendants, decorations and candies, a half-hideous, half-friendly spectre primed to dispense gifts to the young at Epiphany.

Caviglia gripped the handrail as the bus lurched through the traffic past the stranded temple ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina, smiling at his memories. Theirs had been an uncomplicated, innocent marriage, perhaps because it had never been blessed by children. Even so, for Chiara's sake, he had left out a traditional offering for La Befana—a piece of broccoli, some sausage, and a glass of wine—every year of their marriage, right to the end, when her life was ebbing away like a winter tide retreating gently for the last time. He'd never had the money for expensive presents. Nor did it matter, then or now. The pictures that still remained in his head—of rituals; of simple, fond, shared acts—were more valuable than any lump of gold or silver could ever have been. When his wife was alive, they served as visible symbols of his love. Now that he was alone, the memory of their giving provided comfort during the cold, solitary nights of winter. In his own mind Christmas remained what it always was: a turning point for the year at which the days ceased to shorten, Rome paused to look at itself, feel modestly proud of what it saw, then await the inevitable arrival of spring and, with it, rebirth.

Even in the weather the city had endured of late—dark and terribly wet, with the Tiber at its highest in a quarter century, so brown and muddy and reckless it would have burst its banks without the modern flood defences—there was a spirit of quiet excitement everywhere, a communal recollection of a small, distant miracle that still bore some significance in an ephemeral world of mundane, fleeting greed. He saw this in the faces of the children spilling down the city streets and alleys, excited, trying to guess what the coming weeks would bring. He saw this in the eyes of their parents, too, remembering their youth, taking pleasure in passing some fragment of the wonder on to their own offspring in return. Nor was the weather uniformly vile. Occasionally the heavy, dark clouds would break and a lively winter sun would smile on the city. He'd seen it drift through the dusty windows of his apartment that morning, spilling a welcome golden light onto the ancient, smoke-stained cobblestones of the alley outside. It had made him feel at home, glad to be a Roman born and bred.

Excerpted from The Garden of Evil by David Hewson Copyright © 2008 by David Hewson. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...
  • Book Jacket: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    I feel like Gabrielle Zevin wrote this wonderful book, about a lonely New England bookstore owner ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

Hell hath no fury.... like a woman scorned

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.