Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Lost Boy of Bologna by Francesca Scanacapra - Book Tour + Giveaway

The Lost Boy of Bologna

Bologna, 1929. A newborn baby boy is abandoned by his desperate unmarried mother, who believes he is dead and that she is to blame. Heartbroken, she leaves her child, accepting that her actions will haunt her for the rest of her days. But unbeknown to her, the kindness of a stranger means the starving baby survives. And so begins the extraordinary life of Rinaldo Scamorza

Following several years in an orphanage, where Rinaldo still holds onto the hope that his mother will come to claim him, he is entrusted to a heartless foster-mother who treats her charges as nothing more than financial opportunities. Yet amidst the cruelty and violence of this loveless environment Rinaldo meets fellow orphan, Evelinaand the two children create a bond which they believe will never be broken. 

Rinaldo holds tight to the few people who show him love, and he becomes a loyal, intelligent and kind boy. But his life is shattered when aged barely 13, Evelina is sold into prostitution by their foster-mother. 

As he grows up and becomes more resourceful, he finds work as an errand boy in a brothel, where he encounters Evelina once again. But in his efforts to help her escape her life of exploitation, another dark misfortune pulls them apart and she disappears. 

When at last Italy begins to emerge from the shadows of World War II and Bologna’s economy recovers, Rinaldo uses his intimate knowledge of the city to change his life for the better. But through everything, the successes and the moments of loneliness and misery, the women he yearns to see again – Evelina and his mother – are always on his mind…

Fans of Angela Petch, Helen Fripp, Dinah Jeffries, Rhys Bowen and Louise Douglas will adore this captivating historical novel.

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Here, the protagonist, Rinaldo, is seven years old. He is an orphan living under the supervision of his uncaring foster-mother, Ada Stracci, in the city of Bologna. The year is 1936.

 Rinaldo realised that his permanent unwell feeling was due to hunger, but he knew that requesting more food from Ada Stracci would be tantamount to requesting a beating. The other children ate their food in rapid, ravenous mouthfuls, but Rinaldo found that eating in such a way only made him hungrier. It was better to eat slowly, taking small bites and chewing for a long time to trick his body into thinking it was a satisfying meal, but it was only a temporary solution. Within an hour of finishing his food, he would be hungry again.

               Competition amongst the children was fierce at the table. Each one protected their plate, defending their food and prepared to stab their fork into any hand which strayed too close. Every mouthful, every morsel, every breadcrumb and every smear of sauce was guarded like the most precious thing in the world.

Evelina would share her supper with Rinaldo by passing things secretly under the table. She would always tap his foot with hers to warn that something was on the way, but the other children soon realised what was going on and didn't like it. They didn’t like the fact that Evelina was better fed than they were, and they didn’t like the fact that she only shared with Rinaldo. They threatened to tell, so Rinaldo asked Evelina to stop. Instead of passing him morsels under the table, she would wrap things in her handkerchief and give them to him later. Still, it was not enough to satisfy the appetite of a growing boy.

Rinaldo became entirely obsessed with food. He would stand outside the pastry shop with his nose pressed against the window, gazing at the cakes. There were tarts glistening with glazed fruit, pyramids of almond and hazelnut cones, meringues oozing zabaglione and rich chocolate custard. His craving was all-consuming. Sometimes it was all too much. It was as though Rinaldo was being devoured by the cakes.

He had tasted one once. A kind lady had given him a cream-filled choux bun when he had helped to carry her shopping, and it had been the most delicious thing that the small boy had ever tasted.

               Then one day, as he was walking down a side street not far from Ada Stracci’s, Rinaldo had stopped dead in his tracks, struck by the hot, sweet fragrance of a freshly-baked something. Whatever it was, it came from the sill of a ground-floor window, but Rinaldo was too short to see exactly what it was. He stood for a while, filling his nostrils with the aroma, until the ravenous wrenching of his stomach became intolerable.

Snatching up a bucket on which to stand, he found himself at eye-level with a crostata - a huge baked tart, topped with a thick layer of apricot jam and latticed with strips of sweet, crumbly pastry. It sat on the windowsill still in its baking tray, steaming as it cooled. The sight and smell of it made the boy’s knees tremble so much that he almost fell off the bucket.

Unable to control himself, he reached out to take it, but the dish in which it sat was too hot to hold. Rinaldo pulled down his sleeves over his hands and grabbed the dish. It was not only very hot, but also very heavy. As he jumped down, the bucket toppled over with a loud clatter, taking Rinaldo and the crostata with it, but he managed to land on his feet, the crostata held aloft.

The noise alerted the woman in the kitchen, who leaned out of the window. To his dismay, Rinaldo realised that he knew her. She was the nice lady who had given him the choux bun for carrying her shopping.

‘Stop! Thief!’ she cried.

Rinaldo made off as fast as his toothpick legs could carry him. Almost immediately a man came out of the tobacco shop and gave chase. Rinaldo ran, still holding on to the crostata, but the heat from the dish was radiating through his sleeves and his hands were burning. The man from the tobacco shop was closing in. Rinaldo slipped down a side alley. He would have run faster, but he was slowed by the weight of the crostata.

‘Oi! I know who you are! You’re one of Ada Stracci’s urchins!’ yelled the man.

Realising that he had not only been rumbled, but also identified, terrified Rinaldo. He continued to run, but when he turned to look behind him, he tripped and the dish slipped from his grasp.

The beautiful crostata flew through the air before hitting a wall and sliding in a slow, sticky, jammy way to the ground. Rinaldo ducked into an open cellar and sat blowing on his burned hands. He could hear the angry tobacconist outside, cursing him. Eventually the kind lady came to retrieve her baking tray. Rinaldo remained hidden in the cellar until long after they had gone.

The mess of the crostata had been scraped from the wall, leaving only a smear of jam. Rinaldo pressed his finger into it and rubbed it on his tongue to taste it. It made his longing worse.

Although he had not satisfied his hunger, Rinaldo had learned two lessons that day. The first: if he was to steal, he would have to be clever about it. The second: he would never steal from someone unless they deserved it.


Francesca Scanacapra was born in Italy to an English mother and Italian father, and her early childhood was spent in Bologna, the city whose rich history has been the inspiration for the Bologna Chronicles series of novels. Francesca’s adult life has been somewhat nomadic with periods spent living in Italy, England, France, Senegal and Spain. In 2021 she returned to her native country and back to her earliest roots to pursue her writing career full time. She now resides permanently in rural Lombardy in the house built by her great-grandfather which was the inspiration for her Paradiso Novels.

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Insta @francescascana2

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Lost Boy of Bologna (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


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