It is autumn 1943 when German forces invade the peaceful vineyards and olive groves of Giovanna Bellini’s village in Tuscany. At first, the seventeen-year-old finds herself fascinated by the dashing Nazi officers. She has yet to come face-to-face with the harsh realities of war.
Her life changes when her brother joins the partisans and recruits her to smuggle food. What begins as a lark takes a drastic turn when she’s asked to hide a wounded freedom fighter, for Mario Rava is not just a partisan—he’s also a Jew.
As Giovanna helps Mario heal, their bond deepens. But the world around them is in upheaval, and terrible truths are slowly being revealed—truths that will endanger countless lives, as well as the love that has grown between them….
Review: This is Wurtele’s debut novel and it was a riveting read. The book takes place during World War II in Tuscany, Italy and you felt like you were there with the vivid descriptions of the countryside, vineyards, food, villas, farmland and churches along with the Nazis, partisans, bombings, and tales of the war. It’s a story of family, honor, strength and love along with all the fears invoked by the war as well as the horrors of the Jews being rounded up and sent away on trains to the camps. The Bellini family are the main characters and you get to know them intimately. Giovanna finds herself on the outs with her family due to her beliefs and stand against the war and because of the strong feelings she comes to have for Mario, who is Jewish, and who she ultimately falls in love with. The prologue set the stage for the storyline but you nearly forgot about it due to the action that takes place throughout the book. You are reminded of it with the reading of the epilogue which gives nice closure to the story.
I enjoyed the journal entries written by Mario while he was hiding from the German army. There was a happily ever after that didn’t seem like it would come to bear with a few tears shed along the way. This book was reminiscent to me of The Sound of Music with the daughter thinking she is in love with the Nazi soldier as well as Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard that also had black soldiers serving in the war in Europe. This was an enjoyable read which I initially did not think it would be and I look forward to reading other books by Wurtele in the future.
Favorite Quote: …Mother had decided not to ask the Germans’ permission, but simply to go ahead and set a table under the huge, spreading linden tree. If challenged, she planned to use my eighteenth birthday as an excuse and hope she could prevail upon their goodwill. I had wanted to include Violetta in the celebration, but Mother worried that even one more guest might ad to the noise and make it riskier.