Tag Archives: Zoe Boccabella

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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limoni e mandarini…

On the kitchen table today… a friend’s home-grown lemons and mandarins on one of Nanna Francesca’s 1950s dinner plates. So lovely when someone brings you fruit and flowers they’ve grown in their garden. To me they’re the perfect gifts. (And the fresh, crisp lemon scent currently in the kitchen is divine!) 🍋

I have to say, we ate off these dinner plates at Nanna Francesca and Nonno Anni’s for decades and it’s incredible how small they are compared to plates these days. That said, I think there were often second, (and even third!), helpings at times. 👀😄 But as is the case when an Italian Nonna has been doing the cooking – no one ever goes hungry!

Hope you have a lovely day. 💛 Zoe xx

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Filed under garden + vintage linens, kitchen stories

Remembering…

My House, My Truth, 1989 by Mariya Prymachenko (1909-1997). “My house, my truth… my mother did it all and gave me. She sewed, spun, baked bread and pounded millet.” Mariya Prymachenko.

Family. The older generation, having lived life, passes on their experience to their children. Prymachenko’s mother passed on her love for art and taught her to embroider and be herself. – From the Odessa Journal, 2022.

Recently at the charity auction ‘Benefit for Ukraine’s People and Culture’ in Venice, this artwork sold for 110,000 euros to become the most expensive of Prymachenko’s paintings. The entire cost has been donated.

(In the first few weeks of Russia’s war on Ukraine, invading Russian forces burned down the museum that was home to 25 of Mariya’s paintings. The war has now been ongoing for five months with tens of thousands of casualties.) 💛💙🌻 памьятаюші

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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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The ghost town after the earthquake…

2005

This is the most recent footage of Fossa since the Abruzzo earthquake of 2009. It is called, ‘Town Disappeared Overnight’ by Broken Window Theory and shows the ghost town that it tragically is today. I admit, I did find it hard to watch at times – the place where generations of my family lived for centuries and many parts of the village where I’ve walked and lived and of course written about in both my books. It gave me goosebumps to see and I felt bewildered, sad, captivated and protective all at once. For this is not just a curiosity, it is where people’s lives were lost and for others where life, as they knew it, ended.

I look at the streets overgrown and neglected and at the same time I see in my mind back when they were well-kept and clean and full of people, cats, dogs, cars and vespas. Incredibly, at 18 minutes into this 20 minute footage, my family’s house with its little balcony fills the screen. It is deceptive because from that side wall the destruction inside the house is concealed. If you have any link to Abruzzo, I warn that this footage may be hard to watch as those filming go right into the most intimate parts of homes, which may just happen to be yours or of someone you know. That said, the young men filming have done so with respect, have only entered houses where the doors were already open and have concealed the name and whereabouts of the village. (Considering my own family’s house is one of those looted since the earthquake, I appreciate this.) By the end, they also appear to be overwhelmed by all they’ve seen.

I’ve always held hope to return to the village and my family’s house even if it is still a ghost town. However, most of all, I hope to see it and the other towns affected by the 2009 earthquake once again as they were. Vibrant, full of people of all ages, cooking aromas, vespas going past, cats asleep in doorways, women shelling peas, tvs blaring, kids playing football in the piazza, birds chirruping among the lanes and the church bell clanging, everything that was beautiful and glorious about Italian village life. xx

To watch footage… click here

For more about Fossa, how it once was and the earthquake…

Mezza Italiana

Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

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Dolci con il caffè…

The dilemma of what to have with a coffee… took this in the gorgeous Gran Caffé, Assisi.

{Music: Coffee Cold by Galt MacDermot.}

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