By: Margaret Wurtele
Publisher: New American Library
Publishing Date: February 2012
Reviewed By: Mary Lignor
Review Date: January 31, 2012
This book begins with a prologue that features Giovanna Bellini visiting her childhood home in Tuscany. She has come home to be with her mother, as her father is on his death bed and not expected to live much longer. While there, Giovanna begins to remember the times during the war when the German soldiers came into her village and took over the homes and businesses as their own.
It was in the fall of 1943, the war in Europe had been going on since 1939 but hadn't really gotten into this part of Italy. Giovanna was 17 years of age and finally beginning to realize what was going on in the country. German forces had just invaded her peaceful village and started to take over the people and businesses. She was intrigued by the Nazi officers in their cleaned and pressed uniforms and as she hadn't yet come face to face with any real hardships, she doesn't think that they are so difficult to get along with.
Giovanna is asked by a former teacher of hers to help out with the school. When the Germans drive up to the school and announce that they are taking over, they relent and give the teachers and the school a couple of rooms to teach. When Giovanna arrives at home and finds that the Germans have also been there, she finds that her family is relegated to the servants quarters and the occupiers have taken over the main house. Her brother, Pietro, leaves home to join the Resistance and asks Giovanna to help furnish them with food and supplies. She regards this as a way to help the country and really doesn't seem to take it too seriously. Things heat up when she is asked to take care of a wounded partisan and to hide him from the soldiers because he is Jewish. As Giovanna helps this boy heal, she begins to fall in love with him and truths of what is going on regarding people of the Jewish faith and, how her family feels about Hitler's "Final Solution," comes to light.
This is an extremely well-written book and the author pays attention to the historical significance of the story. However, unlike most stories written about World War II, the story is written about a privileged family who didn't suffer the real brunt of war time Italy. They definitely had to make some sacrifices but, still had a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs unlike many of their neighbors. It is a story about nice families during hardships where they are able to get along without thinking about others who were more unfortunate than they were.
Quill Says: Perhaps this book would make a genuine Young Adult novel as most of it takes place when Giovanna is a teenager. It makes an interesting teenage love story.