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History group publish Olive’s true stories of life as an Italian immigrant in Clerkenwell

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 June 2011

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»An Islington woman who has written her first book at the sprightly age of 85 
will be celebrating its launch on Saturday.

Olive Besgani, who has lived in Myddelton Square for more than 50 years, took five years to pen A Better Life – a collection of true stories about impoverished Italian immigrants moving to the slums of Clerkenwell in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Mrs Besgani, whose father and husband are both Italian, said: “I went round to people’s houses and got all their stories about how things were when they first moved here.

“I put off releasing it for a long time. I suppose I was a bit nervous of rejection, but the Islington Historical Society agreed to publish it.

“These young people of Italian descent living in luxury with their restaurants need to know how their parents suffered and how they struggled for a crust.”

Despite making a late start as an author, Mrs Besgani isn’t ruling out a second book.

“There has been a lot of interest in the subject, but you would have to ask my husband.

“He has been pulling his hair out coming second to the book all the time.”

A Better Life will be on sale at the Clerkenwell Italian Procession on July 17.


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