Van has finished reading… The Fourth Shore by Virginia Baily

23 Nov

the fourth shore

The trees are aflame with colour and your breath clouds before your face. For the first time this year you’ve got your hat and gloves on and you’re snuggly in your boots and autumn coat. It’s quiet, just you and a wide open space. That feeling – the anticipation of it, the awareness that things are changing yet you’re cosseted, safe and warm and ready – that’s reading Virginia Baily.

Following in, or perhaps anticipating the footsteps of the sublime Early One Morning, Virginia Baily’s new book The Fourth Shore returns to Italy to begin the story of Liliana Cattaneo, who follows her brother to Tripolitania in Libya. In this burgeoning land of opportunity Liliana is optimistic, on the cusp of life, love and adventure, though she is about to discover there is more than one side to Italy’s outpost in North Africa, and to the homeland she wants to believe in. Her dream of romance will have dire consequences for her and those closest to her.


You’ve got to love a writer who takes enough care over her characters and storyline, and who thinks enough of her readers to make use of all the details. It’s a delight to me – really, it actually makes me smile as I read – when the manner in which one character is debilitated become the means for insight to another. Nothing is incidental, nothing gets wasted. And then there are those ‘Harvey’ moments where the care taken over the words shines through in a perfectly weighted phrase.

Although Virginia Baily’s The Fourth Shore covers a sweep of events in the grand sense, it’s a very personal story she tells, quiet and intense. It’s through her characters’ responses to those events, and to each other that she views the wider impact of those historic events. There is a secret at the heart of the story, and its uncovering and the action that precipitate it are a perfect mirror of cause and consequence. This is how fiction at its finest works (see Virginia Baily’s Early One Morning, Sarah Day’s Mussolini’s Island, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life).

Liliana is an absolute gift of a character, my view of her changing sometimes from page to page, and I loved the scenes she shares with Farida (who appears so clear to me I believe I may well have met her). The way their relationship moves is a joy to behold. And then there is Zaida, and the need to hold on to your breaking heart – make no mistake, this book is going to make you feel!


Virginia Baily’s The Fourth Shore is wonderful, a quiet story, though no less devastating for that. It cuts to the heart of what it is to love, to trust, to believe. To make amends. It will squeeze your heart, no doubt, but it will make it swell too.


The Fourth Shore will be published by Fleet on 7th March 2019 ISBN: 9780708898499


You can find Virginia on Twitter @VirginiaBaily or on her website,

My especial thanks to Ursula Doyle at Fleet for allowing me to review this lovely book.


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