Tag Archives: The Proxy Bride Zoe Boccabella

The Proxy Bride sneaks onto bestseller list…

The Proxy Bride has snuck into no.9 on the bestseller list for Top 10 Historical Fiction! A huge, heartfelt thank you to all of you for supporting my first novel. I’m very grateful. The list came out in The Weekend Australian and it’s such a privilege to be among these established and talented authors. It’s still sinking in to be honest! (I’ve been worried it might’ve been too much of a risk switching from non-fiction to fiction for this book.)

Also, since I mentioned in my last post that Nanna Francesca would’ve been especially happy to see, The Proxy Bride in the Australian Women’s Weekly, I thought I should mention the same might’ve been for Nonno Anni regarding a recent article about my books appearing in the Italian Australian newspapers, Il Globo and La Fiamma (full article in Italian online). I have lovely memories of him at the kitchen table often reading one of these newspapers with a morning coffee (International Roast boiled on the stove in the enamel pot, of course!)

I have to say too that seeing, The Proxy Bride on the same page as a Patricia Cornwall book reminded me of a time, almost thirty years ago, when I dreamt of having a book published. I was working during the day as a clerk doing mainly filing and data entry while also waitressing several nights in a Chinese restaurant and on other nights trying to write (when I wasn’t exhausted!) One lunch hour, I popped out to buy a book to read on the train home and someone had recommended Patricia Cornwall. When I think of the different jobs I’ve had over the years and all the types of writing I’ve done to this point, I definitely don’t take any part of this for granted. Thank you again for embracing these stories. I appreciate it very much! Zoë xx

The Proxy Bride

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Extract in the Australian Women’s Weekly…

The Australian Women’s Weekly has chosen, The Proxy Bride to feature in their latest issue – out today! I just picked up a copy and still can’t quite believe it. I thought it only fitting to share with you it sitting on Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni’s pink-marble Laminex 1950s kitchen table. (The table from their very first house in Wyandra Street – yes, I’m so fortunate to be its current custodian!)

In almost 30 years of writing for all different organisations and publications from academic journals to tv ads, I didn’t expect to have something I’d written featured in such a long-loved institution as the Women’s Weekly. I have to smile as I think this is the one that definitely would’ve resonated for Nanna Francesca compared to all the others. And considering all those years ago her birthplace of Palmi in Calabria was unheard of in Australia – who’d have thought it would ever appear in the Women’s Weekly let alone my writing along with it! Deepest thanks to the AWW for choosing an extract of The Proxy Bride for their December issue. (Nanna Francesca especially would’ve been so happy too!) Zoë xx

The Proxy Bride

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Melanzane fritte and a cornicello…

Melanzane fritte – made with eggplants from the backyard vegie patch, just like the crumbed, fried eggplant slices that Nonna Gia and Sofie cook together in, The Proxy Bride. I’ve put these ones on one of Nanna Francesca’s plates and next to them is a little pot I bought in Italy to stand in as a ‘chilli pot’ (though I confess mine has salt in it at present!)

I hadn’t planned to include recipes at the end of this book but when I was writing about the food in it, I found myself cooking many of the dishes to remind myself of them. Since the way I learned to cook from my grandmother was mostly by watching and tasting, measurements were always a ‘handful of this’, a ‘dash of that’ and if I asked, ‘But how much?’, the answer would be a shrug and something like, ‘Just enough, of course, see?’ It was certainly interesting to try to pin down exact recipe measurements and in the end I thought it might be lovely to share these too.

You might also recognise the cornicello, that amulet of luck that can only be given as a gift, never bought for oneself. A symbol of the earth, fertility, healing and protection that’s endured from as far back as 3400BC in a long-held connection with and reverence for nature as well as humans’ reliance on it for food and survival. Looking at this picture I have to smile – eggplants, a cornicello and handed-down recipes, that’s certainly a little bit of southern Italy going on in northern Australia. 💛 Zoë xx

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The Proxy Bride book launch…

Thank you all of you who came along to join me last night in toasting the women who were proxy brides! And also those who wanted to be there and sent me the loveliest messages. I’ve been told more than a hundred turned up to celebrate and am still feeling amazed and overwhelmed to be honest! I wish I could’ve chatted to each of you for longer – it was such a busy night! And I’m stunned to learn the books all sold out, I’m sorry if you missed out on a copy on the night. More people were there than the bookshop expected!

Thanks to those who sent me some photos. I’m told it was difficult to capture everyone who came along but some of you may find yourselves pictured here. I can’t bear seeing myself in photos so I empathise if anyone else feels the same! I also included the beautiful flowers from my husband, Roger and also my publisher, Rachael Donovan as the bunches were both so stunning and unexpected.

I hope the food was delicious (I didn’t get a moment to grab a morsel but I’m happy to hear it disappeared so it must’ve been good!) and the bar was almost drunk dry so I’m hoping too that means everyone had a wonderful time. I heard one fellow singing Volare along with Livio playing the piano accordion at one stage and like the lyrics to that song, the night seemed to really fly! Thanks again for all your warmth and support for the books. Zoe 💕 xx

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The Proxy Bride book out today…

Today’s the day! The Proxy Bride has arrived and is in book shops! Kind of incredible to be holding it in my hands. For many decades the term, ‘proxy bride’ has been whispered, rarely spoken of, let alone written about – a long-hidden part of our history. It’s unlikely we’ll see Italian-Australian proxy marriages again and I wanted to write about them because these women especially were remarkably brave and their stories deserve more than a whisper.

It was actually Nonno Anni who set me to writing this book. When I was talking to him about his life for, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, by chance he mentioned that during WW2 in Australia when he and other Italians got sent to internment camps, the wives and children suddenly left alone on the farms did it very tough and almost starved. But a group of them banded together, he told me, and kept their farms going. That struck and I knew I’d return one day to write about it.

When I learned some of these women were proxy brides, it opened up even more to the story. Of course, this is just one part of, The Proxy Bride. There’s much more including some laughs, cooking, music inspired by Nanna Francesca’s 1950s stereogram, secrets and quite a few Italian brands and traditions you may recognise! I hope you enjoy reading it.❤️🍝🎶 Zoë x

Available today in paperback and ebook in book shops, department stores and online. (Will let you know when there is audio book news.) Thanks to all those at HQ Fiction and HarperCollins who helped bring this about and to you for your lovely ongoing support for all my books. So very much appreciated! Zoë xx

Click for booksellers…

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The Proxy Bride – new book coming

Four months until, The Proxy Bride is out and the book cover has landed at my desk. It’s always interesting to see what the publisher creates for a cover and even though this is book three, each time it still feels astonishing to see my name on the front!

For this book it’s been an honour to write about a part of our hidden history – the courageous women who married by proxy and travelled to the other side of the world to husbands they’d mostly never met. And also of the Italian wives left behind on farms in Australia after their husbands were interned during WW2 and how these women banded together to survive against tough odds and much hostility towards them at the time.

Not least, it’s also about Nonnas and granddaughters in the 1980s when those stories and secrets from the past began to emerge and cultures clashed along with old Italian traditions and Australian life. Of course, while it’s a novel, so much of this book is inspired by true happenings, family stories and even a bit of my own experience as a teenager in the ’80s. Looking forward to sharing it with you! Zoë xx

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Next book out in September…

HarperCollins have released the blurb about the next book! The Proxy Bride will be out on 7th September and I can’t wait to share it with you. 

“In 1939, Giacinta sets sail from Italy to Australia. Decades later, a granddaughter discovers the true story of her family… A stunningly crafted novel of family, secrets and facing adversity.

Imagine marrying someone you’ve never met …

When Sofie comes to stay with her grandmother in Stanthorpe, she knows little of Nonna Gia’s past. In the heat of that 1984 summer, the two clash over Gia’s strict Italian ways and superstitions, her chilli-laden spaghetti and the evasive silence surrounding Sofie’s father, who died before she was born. Then Sofie learns Gia had an arranged marriage. From there, the past begins to reveal why no-one will talk of her father.

As Nonna Gia cooks, furtively adding a little more chilli each time, she also begins feeding Sofie her stories. How she came to Australia on a ‘bride ship’, among many proxy brides, knowing little about the husbands they had married from afar, most arriving to find someone much different than described.

Then, as World War II takes over the nation, and in the face of the growing animosity towards Italians that sees their husbands interned, Gia and her friends are left alone. Impoverished. Desperate. To keep their farms going, their only hope is banding together, along with Edie, a reclusive artist on the neighbouring farm and two Women’s Land Army workers. But the venture is made near-impossible by the hatred towards the women held by the local publican and an illicit love between Gia and an Australian, Keith.

The summer burns on and the truth that unfolds is nothing like what Sofie expected …

The author of Mezza Italiana brings to life a unique point of migrant women’s untold experience, in a resonant novel of family, food and love.”

The Proxy Bride…

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Sneak peek… next book

The Proxy Bride is a novel inspired by true stories and set between the 1940s and the 1980s in Italy and Australia. There will be angry spaghetti, mixed grills, mixed tapes, Dean Martin on the 1950s stereogram and plastic on the lounge suite and, above all, hopefully characters you may come to love who band together amid tough times for a new life.

To be released 7 September, 2022…

The plaited chillies hanging in the kitchen are on their way!
Buona settimana!  💛🍝 Zoe x

About The Proxy Bride…

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