Rating: Very Good
Description: In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.
Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.
Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now…
Genre: Fiction - Historical
Why I Picked This Book: I'm a big Rhys Bowen fan and I just loved the sound of this one.
My Impression: Well now I need to go to Italy. Specifically a small village in Tuscany to stay with a woman who will teach me all the wonders of cooking Italian food. I will walk in the countryside, eat delicious food, and drink lots of wine. I'm going to take a miss on the dead body and troubled paternal relationship though.
This book is told in two timelines and I really enjoyed both. I found Hugo's story so compelling and was so caught up in his relationship with Sofia and his struggles to survive. Joanna's story took me a little longer to get into. There was a lot of hinting about some traumatic event and she just seemed so bitter and unhappy I didn't like her at first. However, once she got to Italy and began spending time with the woman who rents her a room, Paola, she began opening up and I was completely on her side. I loved how Joanna really let herself embrace the warmth and friendship offered by Paola and the cooking lessons made my mouth water. All the while my heart broke for Hugo as right from the beginning I knew the beginning of the story and the end but not what happened in between. I felt like the fear, the frustration, and the scarcity of necessary supplies was really in focus here and I couldn't help but love Sofia for her positivity and resourcefulness. My only problem was that the ending felt a little rushed and I would have liked a little more resolution on one particular plot point.
This was a compelling read and a poignant one. I enjoyed this look at the Italian home front which was more front than home.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Absolutely! I've really loved both of Bowen's historical fiction standalones and can't wait for the next one.
Would I Recommend this Book? If you enjoy historical fiction I think you'd enjoy this read.