The Tuscan Childby Rhys Bowen Published 20 Feb 2018
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|Publisher||Lake Union Publishing|
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From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…
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…
"The Tuscan Child" Reviews
*3.5 stars rounded up.
In December, 1944, Hugo Langley is a young British pilot who is forced to parachute from his burning plane over Italy. Hugo has received a leg wound and is sure he will soon die until a young Tuscan woman comes to his aid.
Nearly thirty years later, his daughter Joanna is sorting through his papers after his death when she discovers an old sealed letter addressed to an Italian woman named Sofia. A letter that is marked "Not known at this address. Return to Sender." It is a love letter in which Hugo says "I want you to know that our beautiful boy is safe. He is hidden where only you can find him." Joanna is stunned--did her father have a child with an Italian woman during the war? If so, was that child ever returned safely to his mother?
Since her own life is currently in shambles, Joanna decides to travel to San Salvatore in Tuscany, Italy to see if she can piece together the past. No one there remembers a wounded British pilot during the war but soon a man is found murdered and Joanna becomes the chief suspect.
A nice blend of the past and present (1973) reveals an interesting story. Perhaps the ending is a bit too pat, hence the drop in stars, but it is a heart-warming story filled with descriptions of delicious-sounding Italian meals and pleasant, welcoming villagers.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Rhys Bowen and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read an arc of this new book in exhange for an honest review.
Netgalley # 25
Many thanks go to Rhys Bowen, Lake Union, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.
Joanna Langley loses her father, but gains a legacy that takes her to the Tuscan region of Italy to discover the past. The book flips between the 70s and the 40s (Joanna's time and her father, Hugo's, time). The story revolves around a mystery woman named Sofia and "a beautiful boy." I'm afraid to mention anything else without giving the plot away.
I saw the denouement coming a mile away, not where but who and why. I've read most of Her Royal Spyness mysteries by Bowen, so I was familiar with her writing. Not that the story was ruined for all of that. It was still an enjoyable read. I was a tad disappointed about Sofia's ending though.
I guess I was hoping for a happier ending.
When Joanna Langley is cleaning out the house of her father after his unexpected death in the English countryside, she comes acrosss a sealed letter. Having beeen stranged for a few years, Joanna realizes how little she knew about him and his past as an English airman in the RAF. The letter is adressedd to Sofia Bertoli and in it there is information that unsettles her. Not being able to contain her desire to know, Joanna takes off to the village of San Salvatore, the address on the envelope. In her attempt to find the truth about her father, she will embark on a personal journey of her own.
I love the premise of this novel. The cover is beautiful. A mix of a historical book with romance and some mystery, this seemed like a book that I would love. But alas, I do not. With a dual narration, that of Joanna and her father Hugo, this novel takes place in 1973 and 1944 respectively. Hugo Langley was a pilot for the RAF and while flying over Tuscany, his plane was hit. Hugo managed to save himself by jumping off with his parachute. But he sustained a serious injury upon landing in a German-controlled area. Luckily for Hugo, he was found by Sofia Bertoli, a local woman who then comes to his aid and helps conceal him. Growing up Joanna knew his father was in the war and was able to return back home but she never knew the details. Thus as Joanna heads for San Salvatore, she hopes to learn of this facet of her father. Once in the village, she meets an array of characters, from the kind woman who rents her a room to the man that seems to control the whole village with his money. While everyone denies having known about her father, Joanna feels something is off. This notion is futher reinforced when a man is found dead.
In the end, this book was nice but not outstanding. There was just something missing. Even with a murder, there was a lack of suspense. I had a hard time believing that events unfolded in the time frame and order in which they did. And the ending? It was just too neat and perfect. Again, hard to believe. The characters were one note and predictable. I did find all those Italian and English countryside vignettes lovely and the food descriptions were a nice touch. I found myself really craving risotto and stuffed zucchini flower. As a historical novel though, it did not deliver. It was not memorable for me, this book. I read quite a bit regarding WWII and this novel was underwhelming.
In the Tuscan Child Rhys Bowen has written a novel with a dual time line. One part is set in Tuscany during World War 11 time, where Hugo - an English pilot is forced to eject from his damaged plane. Badly injured he is helped by Sofia - a local young woman. She hides him in bombed monastery and carries food to him when she can.
As well we meet Joanna - Hugo's daughter, in 1973 returning home to Langley Hall on the sudden death of her father. She finds some items amongst his things that lead her on a journey to Tuscany to find answers to her questions. From her we receive a picture of Hugo as an old defeated man, out of touch with his daughter. Yet in the mid 1940's we see a completely different Hugo.
Mystery surrounds what went on in that small village during the war, how did Hugo and Sofia not end up together? The town has one story but is that correct? Joanna finds welcome from some in the village but not from others. Her hostess is lovely and soon has her sampling all kinds of wonderful Tuscany cooking. Yet there seems to be something not quite right going on, a bad force at work.
While Joanna finds the son of Sofia still alive - Renzo, it takes awhile for him to warm to her, however soon they are working together to find the answers Joanna is seeking about her father and his cryptic note he tried to send Sofia.
I enjoyed the Tuscany setting and the description of the food and people. Sofia was a warm, courageous young woman, Hugo a man changed by her, Joanna a daughter kept somewhat at arm's length but still with a connection to her father, that makes her determined to find out what went on here in San Salvatore during the war. And the day of reckoning for some is about to take place.
Having read and enjoyed Rhys Bowen’s In Farleigh Field, I was more than happy to pick up The Tuscan Child. The synopsis intrigued me, and I was excited to see how the story came together.
From the very start, The Tuscan Child sucks you into the story. It pulls you into the past, leaving you turning page after page as two interconnected storylines play out. You know they are linked, you have ideas of how, but it is not until you’ve worked your way deep into the story that everything becomes apparent. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, this is certainly a book to pick up. It may not be the dark and twisted thriller you find in other books set in this time, but this one will keep you gripped throughout.
While there was a lot about this book I enjoyed, I think my favourite aspect was how atmospheric the book was. Rhys Bowen really brings the locations to life, providing so many details that the world comes alive around you. Each and every element is vivid, the detail enough to transfer you to someplace new. Honestly, I was surprised. I tend to find the level of imagery I had with this book usually comes from the author being too detailed – yet, somehow, Rhys Bowen managed it without burying me under endless pages of description.
Another thing I really enjoyed, something I also enjoyed about In Farleigh Field, was the attention given to the dynamics of the characters. There was a lot of fun to be had with the mystery, the world came alive around us, but what I constantly found myself wanting more of was the details pertaining to the individual characters. There were many layers to uncover, and I found myself desperate to know all there was to know about the characters, to see more of the way they played off each other.
The one thing I wasn’t crazy about, though, was the ending. I felt as though it didn’t have the high impact I had been anticipating. I enjoyed it, yes; I was glad to see how everything came together, sure; but I had expected something a bit more. The ending didn’t quite feel up to the same standard as the rest of the book.
Overall, though, I had a lot of fun with this one. I’m certainly interested in reading more Rhys Bowen in the future.
WWII romances are so my thing, but this book was so much more than just another romance. It’s story about family, loss, children, and life choices. It’s not very often that I find a book set during WWII that is set in some place other than England or France but this was that unique and rare occasion.
Rhys Bowen is an experienced author with a couple of impressive mystery series under her belt. I have been lucky enough to read a few of the Molly Murphy mysteries in the past and have grown to love her prose and abilities. Recently Bowen has started writing some stand alone novels set in WWII, I read her first one In Farleigh Field a few months ago and while it had a few technical flaws, I liked that she was trying to make a stand alone book for fans of the historical era.
This book sounded similar the In Farleigh Field novel, but different enough to grab my attention and read it. I loved the the novel was set some place other than England or France and I think that the freshness of the location added a lot to the narrative. I loved her descriptions of the locations and landscape. I loved how much of the story took place in the Italian countryside. I haven’t been to Italy but the way that Bowen describes the countryside was exactly how I would imagine it in my mind. I want to visit there even more so than I did before reading this novel. I could almost feel the sun on my skin and all the glorious Italian food mentioned.
Another thing that stood out to me was the intricate plot. I wouldn’t say that it was overly complex or twisted, but delicately intricate. I never felt rushed in the plot nor did I feel that it was too drawn out. I loved how the ‘modern’ (1970s) side of the plot fit right into the ‘historical’ (1940s) part of the plot. The relationship between Hugo and his daughter (or lack there of) was dynamic and made the plot more interesting and so much more than just another ‘war romance’. I thought that it added depth and value to the characters. The romance, setting and intertwining past/present stories made the book so moody and a pleasure to read and it hit me in the all the feels.
While this book had a lot of romance and romantic elements, I thought it had more than just love and a boy meets girl plot. It had family secrets, a great location with vivid descriptions, likable characters, history, and of course love. It had a so much to like and I think readers looking for something to escape into that isn’t frivolous or over done will find a lot t enjoy with this book.
See my full review here