In Search of Strangeness

Anthony Domestico at Commonweal:

We’ll start with a pair of shoes. In 1944, a young Italian woman named Emilia “Ilia” Terzulli marries an older English soldier named Esmond Warner. They’re an unlikely couple. Nicknamed “La Giraffa,” Ilia is tall, poor, gorgeous, and untraveled. Esmond is balding, bespectacled, and worldly. She’s not just Italian but southern Italian; he’s not just English but English English, his family’s wealth faded but not their lordly idiosyncrasies. (His mum goes by Mother Rat; his father, a former professional cricketer, by Plum; his childhood pet rat by Scoot.) And so, to make his Bari-born wife feel at home in South Kensington, Esmond buys Ilia a pair of shoes. More specifically, he buys her “bespoke brogues”: sturdy, plain-ish, yet expensive shoes that mark Ilia’s “formal enrolment in the world of the squirearchy, hunting, going to the point-to-point, the harriers, the beagles, the open-gardens scheme, the charity fête.”

We read about these brogues in Marina Warner’s Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir (New York Review Books, 432 pp., $19.95).

more here.