The Three Graces

The Three Graces by Amanda Craig

Three very different friends have moved to Tuscany for a retirement in the sunshine. But life is far from quiet…

“In our retiring years, says Ruth, we are supposed to be “invisible, inaudible and negligible, as if we have nothing left to do or say. No wonder older women prefer to be portrayed as witches, or Fates, or Furies…”


When Enzo shoots an illegal migrant from his bedroom one night, it triggers a series of events that embroil old and young, rich and poor, native and foreign. His elderly neighbours Ruth, Diana and Marta are three friends who have retired to Tuscany. Ruth's favourite grandson Olly is about to get married from her idyllic hillside farmhouse; however, the bride, Tania, seems curiously unengaged by anything but vlogging as a social media influencer. Marta, preparing to give the annual music recital sponsored by a Russian oligarch in hiding from Putin, is increasingly unwell, and her grandson, Xan, is full of resentment at the inequalities he encounters. Diana is nursing her husband, Lord Evenlode, and looking back over a long and troubled marriage.

Over two weeks in May, all these characters will face challenging choices as they grapple with their own past and with present dangers. For although the Tuscan spring looks as ravishing as a Renaissance painting, the realities of modern life make it harder and harder to believe that there is more that unites us than what keeps us apart.

Amanda Craig was born in South Africa, and grew up in Italy. For fifty years, her parents lived near the Tuscan hill-town Cortona, which inspired the fictional town of Santorno, the setting both for her debut Foreign Bodies and for The Three Graces. She says:

"This is my most personal novel, which I've been waiting my whole life to write. The lives of international emigres in Italy, and their choices, eccentricities, prejudices, ideals and enthusiasms, contrasting with the extreme localism (“campanilismo”) of Italians has always fascinated me. The mixture of black comedy, tragedy, compassion and high drama is always present. Being both an insider and an outsider in Italy and England is what made me a novelist. So, too, did my parents’ work for the United Nations, reporting on the challenges posed by refugees, overpopulation, climate change, war and famine while living in one of the most beautiful, hospitable and embattled countries in the world.

Watching the current clash between the so-called Boomers, and Millennials like my own children has also preoccupied me for many years. My novel is not just about three elderly women in the last decade of their lives, but about the experiences in the past that have made them what they are, and the very different choices available now to the young.”


She's such a skilful storyteller who vividly dramatises our lives with wit, wisdom and compassion.

I revelled in The Three Graces - such an intriguing cast, so convincingly presented, and a narrative that continually surprises. The Tuscan backdrop is illuminating, the apposition between old and young so persuasively displayed. A terrific read.

People talk about the infirmities of old age, but what about the firmities? What about the beliefs, the events, the politics, the odd secret? The Three Graces is a brilliant piece of storytelling that revels in the world of expat old ladies in Tuscany, and it should be the book everybody's reading this summer. The setting's idyllic, the air is mild in May, but there's a threat of England and family histories just beyond the horizon. It's a novel E.M. Foster would've loved.

I love Amanda Craig's work, always supercharged with bright colouration and passionate feeling. And her imagination seems boundless: a defiant, bubbling wellspring of free-wheeling enquiry in a literary landscape made more and more arid and monotonous.

Amanda Craig's latest novel is a joy to read.

The Three Graces may occasionally teeter on the brink of riotous but it is also witty, sharp-eyed and, in the end, ridiculously enjoyable.