Anbara Salam

Book cover image

Narrated By: Jill Winternitz

Duration: 10 hours and 35 minutes

What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin

It is summer, 1956, when fifteen-year-old Bridget first meets Isabella. In their conservative Connecticut town, Isabella is a breath of fresh air. She is worldly, alluring and brazen: an enigma.

When they receive an offer to study at the Academy in Italy, Bridget is thrilled. This is her ticket to Europe and - better still - a chance to spend nine whole months with her glamorous and unpredictable best friend.

There, lodged in a convent of nuns who have taken a vow of silence, the two girls move towards a passionate but fragile intimacy. As the year rolls on, Bridget grows increasingly fearful that she will lose Isabella's affections - and the more desperate she gets, the greater the lengths she will go to keep her.

Belladonna is a hypnotizing coming-of age story set against the stunning and evocative backdrop of rural Northern Italy. Anbara Salam tells a story of friendship and obsession, desire and betrayal, and the lies we tell in order to belong.

© Anbara Salam 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020


Modern & contemporary fiction, Contemporary romance, Narrative theme: Coming of age

Listen to a sample

I was completely captivated. Thrillingly ambitious, moving, painful and insightful. Bridget broke my heart, she's an alarmingly relatable anti heroine, and I think this book has captured something unique about the experience of jealousy, betrayal and the muddied waters that lie between friendship and obsessive love. It reminded me of The Talented Mr Ripley, but told with acute sensitivity and emotional intelligence

Daisy Buchanan

A moving tale about identity, love, and loss. Anbara Salam unspools a compelling narrative about a young woman struggling to find herself amid family secrets and her own hidden truths. It's the kind of emotionally rich story that stays with you

Anissa Gray, author of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls

The tender, exquisite prose brilliantly captures the feelings and fault lines in the girls' friendship. This is a discerning look at secret infatuation and racial prejudice

Publishers Weekly

Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal meets Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides meets Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr Ripley, this unputdownable and lush novel had me entranced and totally absorbed in the woozy, covertly sensual world of a 1950s Italian convent. Anbara Salam has a gimlet-eyed, ferocious talent for capturing the obsessive urgency and convolutions of power and desire in adolescent experience

Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti

Lush and languid, this sultry coming-of-age tale captures a fractured friendship and the yearnings of girlhood

Daily Mail

Reminiscent of the steamy passion found in The Talented Mr Ripley, this novel is a beguiling whirlwind of young love and obsession


An enthralling tale of race, secrets and the desire to belong


I was utterly captivated, from first page to last

Anton DiSclafani, New York Times bestselling author of The After Party

A raw coming of age story, with heartfelt themes of racial prejudice and forbidden love

Best Magazine

This raw and tender tale brims with vivid prose, whether the lush descriptions of the Italian countryside or Bridget's tortured intimate thoughts. A searingly honest coming of age story which steals your heart