Grifonia is an ancient Italian city which plays host to swarms of foreign exchange students every year. Irish student Tabitha Deacon arrives wanting to immerse herself fully into Italian life and so turns down the university accommodation and quickly finds herself renting a room in a small cottage with two Italian women and an American student, Claire. Tabitha, or Taz as she prefers to be known, is very insecure and desperately wants to fit in, and so finds herself unable to resist when the cliquey Brit Four invite her to join their group. The Brit Four lead a very lavish lifestyle and Taz finds herself at increasingly decadent and dark parties. The sense of foreboding is gradually heightened as Taz gets further involved in their world.
Abroad is very loosely based around the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in 2007; Amanda Knox was convicted of the crime, but this novel focuses on the fictionalised story of before.
From the beginning of this novel the reader knows that Taz’s time in Grifonia doesn’t end well, and the tales woven through her story of young women throughout ancient Etruscan civilisations who have befallen horrible, often sacrificial fates due to their being women, gives this novel a haunted feel all the way through. The narrative style adds to this by evoking such a sense of longing and loss; it is reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones with it’s slightly distant, dream-like quality. It just makes the reader ache for these lost young women.
This novel is wonderfully written and an utterly engrossing read, albeit discomforting at times due to it’s links to a real life case. I highly recommend this book.