I am kicking off my 2019 reviews with the moving book, The Secret, by Katharine Johnson.
Love, Lies, and Betrayal in Wartime Italy.
Two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy share a secret that has devastating consequences.
Against a backdrop of fear, poverty and confusion during the Second World War, friendship is tested, and loyalties are divided until a chance encounter changes everything.
Their lives diverge when beautiful, daring Martina marries and moves into Villa Leonida, the most prestigious house in their Tuscan mountain village, while plain, studious Irena trains to be a teacher.
But neither marriage nor life at Villa Leonida are as Martina imagined. And as other people’s lives take on a new purpose, Irena finds herself left behind.
Decades later, a tragedy at the villa coincides with the discovery of an abandoned baby, whose identity threatens to re-open old wounds among the next generation.
You can purchase your copy of The Secret here.
Despite the sometimes distressing subject matter, The Secret is a gentle book, with characters who welcome you into their world with open arms. It is a warm, inviting read, and the traumas and tragedies faced by some of the characters are handled gently.
Although the story is told from multiple viewpoints and moves backwards and forwards through time between the Second World War and present day, this does not feel at all jarring as it does in other books I have read. Instead it feels completely natural and fluid as the story unfolds. I particularly loved the way in which Carlo drew out his mother, Irena’s, story through the use of a dictaphone.
Although the title refers to a singular secret, it soon became apparent that there was more than one resident of Santa Zita has something they want to keep hidden for one reason or another. I loved how each of these unfurled slowly through the book, with each secret seemingly having an effect on the next. Without giving too much away, there is one secret that left me wondering a little and which I would like to know more about, but at the same time, it felt natural that this would remain a bit of a mystery to the reader, as it was a mystery to the rest of Santa Zita.
I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Florence some years ago, and instantly fell in love with the city. This book made me yearn to return and explore more of Tuscany, and maybe discover some of the Tuscan villages that are off the usual tourist track.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katharine Johnson likes writing about ordinary people who through a character flaw or bad decision find themselves in extraordinary situations. She’s a journalist living in Berkshire, England with her family and springy spaniel. When she’s not writing you’ll find her exploring cities, visiting old houses, playing netball, eating cake or restoring her house in Italy which is nothing like Villa Leonida.
Win 1 x Signed copy of The Secret and 1 x Signed Copy of The Silence (UK Only)
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Many thanks to Katharine, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and for providing me with my copy of the book. Please make sure you stop by the other blogs taking part in the tour.