It is difficult not to fall in love with Janine di Giovanni’s Ghosts by Daylight. A memoir of war and love, the book intertwines Giovanni’s progression as a war reporter with the development of her relationship with French journalist Bruno Girodon.
The book’s structure is curious, opening with the couple’s move to Paris – ten years after they first fell in love. However, the narrative is quick to fill a reader in on how the pair met, rewinding to the summer of 1993. Both journalists are in Sarajevo – Bruno a cameraman, Janine a foreign correspondent – reporting on the ‘longest-running siege in modern history’. The connection between the two is instant, but not straightforward. Both are involved in other relationships – not just with other people, but also their demanding careers.
What follows is a complex but passionate romance involving handwritten notes, unexpected phone calls, periods of silence and many conflicts. The beauty of Ghosts by Daylight lies in Giovanni’s exploration of how she and Bruno are able to function – as a couple – once outside of the war zones and inside their cosy apartment in Paris. Giovanni is brutally honest in her descriptions of marriage, family relationships,motherhood, national identity and self-reflection. Her memoir is raw and relentlessly sincere, taking a reader from the highs of falling in love to the lows of realising that things change.
Whilst parts of the book are repetitive and focus on superficial details – such as the colour of a nurse’s hair – it is true to itself and gives a reader a real insight into the fascinating world of Janine di Giovanni.