Please join me in welcoming historical fiction author, A.B. Michaels onto Oh look, another book. Siobhan Daiko is taking her book, The Girl from Venice, on tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club and I am so excited to be taking part in the tour because her book is fabulous!!
The Girl from Venice
By Siobhan Daiko
Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini's racial laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice in 1943, she must flee the city to save her life.
Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh Nazi reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent anti-fascist activities threaten to tear them apart.
Decades later in London, while sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.
Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots. There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.
A heart-breaking page-turner, based on actual events in Italy during World War II.
*Trigger Warnings:Death, Miscarriage, PTSD, Rape.
You know by now how much I love pretty covers, and I’m growing increasingly fond of World War 2 fiction set in Italy. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when I saw this cover, I got a little too excited about the prospect of reading it, and my TBR list got pushed aside as I gave this book priority over others (although this did cause a few issues because I had some other books that needed to be read and I almost didn’t read them on time!)
This book is a duel timeline, following two different generations. One, with Lidia during the Second World War, and one with Charlotte, in 2010, as she tries to solve the mystery that is her Gran’s past. I will take each timeline in turn, but I absolutely adored reading both.
Lidia’s issues all stem from one thing – the religion that her mother passed onto her, and the Jewish prayer book that she treasures so much. Everything starts when all Jews are expelled from higher education, and Lidia’s dreams to become a doctor are halted. Everything seems to go downhill from there, but it is not a gentle decline, but more of a mountain. Lidia leaves Venice, barely escaping the roundups of Italians to be transported to concentration camps, and joins the Zalunardi family on their farm. Her life changes practically overnight, and it changes once again when events make Lidia feel unsafe. She climbs Monte Grappa and joins the partisans. From a medical student to a partisan – I would say that’s quite a big lifestyle change.
Charlotte doesn’t know where she belongs. She grew up in Hong Kong and moved to England, but she still feels like there is a part of her missing. When she finds unopened letters in her Gran’s attic, written in Italian, she starts wondering what exactly her Gran’s life had been like before she moved to England. Her Gran had never spoken of that time in her life and Charlotte’s interest is piqued. She travels to Venice, in search of the past, and herself. The beautiful city isn’t all she finds, though, for the hotel she is staying at has a particularly good looking owner...
Lidia and Charlotte lead very different lives, but they are so incredibly similar. Charlotte may not have to deal with the threat of deportation or being shot, but she doesn’t have anyone in her life she is willing to follow to the ends of the earth, to encourage and love her. Her parents are distant, and the one person she could always rely on, her Gran, has left her. Going to Italy becomes less and less about finding her Gran’s life, and more about finding hers. Lidia possesses skills that are incredibly useful to the partisans, such as the medical knowledge she learnt before she was expelled and also her fluency in English. The arrival of an English soldier named David provides a necessity for her language skills, and it just so happens that David is a nice guy. Lidia and Charlotte’s love lives develop very similarly, with different reasons holding them back, but the same feelings pushing them forwards.
I think the reason I like books set in Italy so much right now is that I would very much like to travel there one day. In the meantime, before my dream can be accomplished and I can tick the trip off my bucket list, I will settle for reading, rather than seeing — all the sights that these books depict sound so incredibly beautiful. I get very much into the "Italian mood" when I read books like this, and due to my husband’s ability to cook without burning anything, I made him cook an Italian recipe we found on the internet, but alas, when you have a child who does not like trying new food, sometimes the nearest you can get to Italian food is pasta smothered in cheese and dipped in ketchup. I do not think it is a meal you could order in an Italian restaurant (I mean, you could order it, but I don’t think you’d get it) but it sufficed.
This book was absolutely enthralling from beginning to end and I adored every second of reading it!
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