Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona
|Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A lightly-fictionalised look at the life of a diplomatic spouse. It's an excellent, humorous read and captures what the life is like perfectly. Sandra Aragona popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 412||Date: February 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Sarah is married to Giorgio and when we first meet them he's Something Very Senior in the foreign ministry in Rome, much to the disappointment of his mother who thought that he'd be there for her (in Sicily), but not only does he go and marry a foreigner, he has a job which will take him all over the world. Such is the life of the diplomat. Their two daughters have to lead a pretty peripatetic life too, but when the family comes into our lives they're all in Rome - for the time being - and just back from Nigeria. To add to the confusion there's Beagle, just about as undiplomatic a dog as you'll encounter.
When in Rome they live as normal citizens, having to make the most of their apartment down a very narrow calle and Sarah needing to get a job, but it's not too long before Giorgio is posted to Brussels as Ambassador to NATO and despite the fact that the family have only just got their feet under their relative tables in Rome, they're off again. Their younger daughter, Alex, will go with them - in fact she'll have to go on ahead of them so that she can start school at the beginning of term - but Frankie, the older daughter, will stay in Rome. For the time being she'll be boarding at the convent, which isn't too popular.
Sandra Aragona has the life of a diplomatic wife off perfectly and every bit of this book rings true, but then Aragona is the English wife of an Italian diplomat and this is, essentially, her lightly-fictionalised autobiography. (Diplomatic wives have to be careful: diplomat's careers can be ruined very easily.) She captures the outward glamour - state occasions, cocktail parties, living in a grand house - perfectly, but she doesn't hang back when she tells you about the drudgery and boredom which comes with the (unpaid) job, about the fact that when you're abroad you never really have a home which you can call your own and that you're on call pretty much all the time.
Getting a life of your own is always difficult for a diplomatic spouse. They become adept at quickly making new friendships and at retaining old ones when you might not both be in the same hemisphere. Sarah's long-term friend, Manu, has marital problems (well, being honest, she does rather make them) and we're party to their communications: sometimes they meet. They write. Email came as something of a relief, but somehow they manage to keep the friendship alive and well. Wider family relationships are difficult too: Giorgio's mother is in Sicily and Sarah's mother in England, but somehow they have to be kept in touch with their children and grandchildren - and cared for as they get older. There's a real strain on a diplomatic marriage too, not least for the wife, who feels overused, under-valued and marooned over there. Sarah's temptation was Michael, the attentive military attache who was thought to be passing secrets to the Russians, but who somehow contrives to be there through postings to Brussels, Moscow and London.
It's an excellent read from a writer who has done what she has had to do very professionally, but who has never taken herself too seriously. She's quick to bring out the humour in situations and I must confess to being very sorry when I turned the final page. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more stories of the life of an Italian diplomat we can recommend Blue China by Bamboo Hirst, although we think Sorting the Priorities is the better read.
Sandra Aragona was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona at Amazon.com.
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