Hello Bella. I hear you’re about to move to Italy?
You heard correctly! I’m moving to the beautiful coastal town of Portofino to open a very special hotel. Not just me, of course. My family will be accompanying me: my husband, Cecil, and our grown-up children Lucian and Alice.
Why are you opening a hotel?
It’s always been a dream of mine. And our lives in London had begun to feel rather stale and unprofitable. I’ve loved Italy ever since I was a girl and… to tell you the truth, we all need a change. Lucian was badly wounded in the Great War. Alice’s husband lost his life. I’m hoping this new venture will restore us and bring us closer together.
You and your husband included?
[Blushes] That’s a difficult subject. It’s true, we don’t always see eye to eye. And Cecil can be quite unpleasant when he’s had too much to drink. But he’s been very supportive of my hotel idea… I don’t know. People are complicated, aren’t they?
Tell me about your guests.
We’re fully booked all through the summer, which is quite an achievement. We have Cecil’s old flame Julia Drummond-Ward coming with her daughter, Rose. She’s supposed to be very beautiful and we’re hoping she might prove a suitable match for Lucian. Then there’s Lady Latchmere, a grand old dowager who I must admit is rather demanding. (I say ‘old’ – she can’t be much older than me.) We have a couple of Americans arriving next week: an art collector called Jack Turner and his wife, Claudine. At least, I *think* she’s his wife… She’s a singer in Paris. I hoped we might attract some Italian guests and I’m pleased to say we’ve had a booking from one Count Albani and his son, Roberto. The Count is something of an Anglophile and studied at Oxford, I believe.
With so many guests, there can’t be much room for friends.
That’s true, though we do have Lucian’s close friend Anish staying. He’s a charming Indian gentleman. Very clever and kind – it’s no exaggeration to say he saved Lucian’s life. In a funny sort of way I count our cook, Betty, as a friend. I know one shouldn’t say such a thing, but she’s been with the family for such a long time. Sometimes I feel I know her better than my own children.
How are you finding Italy so far?
It’s exquisite – the climate, the view, the people. The political situation troubles me, of course. Mussolini is a thoroughly unpleasant character. But I’m an optimist by nature. As far as I’m concerned, Italy has always stood for truth and beauty and I can’t see that changing any time soon.
JP O’Connell is a writer and editor. He lives in south London with his wife and two children.
JP O’Connell has worked as an editor and writer for a variety of newspapers and magazines including Time Out, The Guardian, The Times, and the Daily Telegraph. JP has also written several books including a novel, a celebration of letter-writing, a spice encyclopedia, and, most recently, an analysis of David Bowie’s favorite books and the ways they influenced his music.
Title: HOTEL PORTOFINO
Author: J.P. O’Connell
Format: Trade Paperback Original
Pub Date: January 18, 2022