© 2020 by Anna Hayward

The Lives We Leave Behind

My debut novel

1922. Bankrupt and corrupt, Italy is a nation where the Church is all-powerful, but a new saviour is emerging.

In their poor mountain village, Maria yearns not only for childhood friend Peppe but like him, she wants more from life than survival and family duty. But when Fascists break up a peasant uprising, little do Maria and Peppe realise how the hand of Italy’s destiny is about to force them apart.

As Mussolini rises, so does Maria, escaping her humble background to flourish in the new collaboration between state and Church. Peppe too finds favour alongside opportunistic Bishop Cesare. But when tragedy strikes, what is left of the people they once were, and can they reconcile themselves with the choices they have made?

What early readers have said

"A genuinely enjoyable read in the same way as the other books I took on holiday with me - William Boyd's Sweet Caress and Ian McEwan's The Child in Time. It bore a very sound comparison." 

"You’ve created a world that I felt fully a part of and which had me living through Peppe, Maria and their fellow characters. It’s a gorgeous, multi-layered novel with real emotional depth, and to write something like that is quite an achievement."

"I thought this was a very convincing love story with real passion and drama driving the parting and rediscovery of each other for Peppe and Maria. I think you convey the emotion - both the pain and the happiness - in the central relationship very effectively, particularly from Maria's perspective. You use the historical context and your deep knowledge of it, very carefully to your advantage, allowing the story to touch on politics, religion and the effects of war with a clear confidence."


"A very feminine book - in a good way - the internal thoughts and intimate physical experiences. Maria is a strinkingly powerful woman from a humble background."

"A good sustained level of tension about when and how Peppe and Maria will eventually meet again and what will happen when they do."