Last night Quartet marked the publication of The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love at an illustrious gathering at Daunt Books in Holland Park.
Here is what I said in my address to celebrate the occasion.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are assembled here today to celebrate the launch of a marvellous book by a very gifted author whose style and storytelling are uniquely breathtaking.
When Maggie Hanbury, her charming agent, sent me the manuscript and I started reading it over a weekend, I could not put it down. My reaction was immediate and my enthusiasm to have it published very quickly gave me a thrill which I had not experienced for a long time.
It is all about Soho, my hunting ground for many years and where my offices stood for over four decades.
The story begins in 1937. When struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron he recognises her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia is afraid that Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist – but when Italy declares war on Britain, the impact threatens to separate them for ever.
The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is an epic tale set against the backdrop of war-torn Europe – from a celebrated voice.
You have to read the book to realise the impact of a story told with such flair and compassion that it will leave you engrossed and wanting more.
I need not tell you that your support for the book would reflect the number of copies you buy, so please be generous and give the author the accolade her book deserves.
Let Alison leave these premises feeling encouraged to keep writing works of such great merit.