on 3 September 2013
A bookclub choice that I would never have selected as I didn't know this author. It's beautifully written and highly evocative of Italy in 2 contrasting periods that are not so far apart.
I much preferred the murder mystery part set in 1955 but I didn't know much about the Italien's relationship with their so called allies and this book highlights what, for me, was a little known part of WW2. It makes you think about how you would cope - collaborate with the Germans and be hated by your fellow countrymen and the partisans or risk death by making a stand against them.
I guessed who the mystery murderer was but that didn't detract from a well written and interesting book with imaginative characters you care about. I recommend this book and I read it very quickly as I was absorbed by it.
I'm a little baffled by the glowing reviews for this book. I felt that it dragged. It took me two weeks to read and it was only sheer stubbornness that kept me going. It's set in Tuscany and the story unfolds in dual storylines. In 1943-44, the wealthy Rosati family are living in the Villa Chimera and somewhat reluctantly playing host to a number of Nazis who come to visit a recently discovered Etruscan tomb on their land. In 1955, the same family are being targeted one by one by a serial killer. Detective Serafina Bettini is trying to find the serial killer and to understand what might have happened during the war to make the family a target today. She will also discover that she holds a very personal connection with the Rosati family.
One thing that frustrated me about this book is that it couldn't decide what it wanted to be. In part, it's a murder mystery, but there is virtually no way that the reader can work out the solution for themselves. In part it's a romance, but it felt like the author lost interest in the romance because it's almost entirely absent from the final third of the book. Moreover, the way that the story is told in two timeframes means that much of the suspense from the 1943 events is lost because we already have a sense of what is going to happen and who is going to survive that period.
There is a large host of characters and they all tend to blur. I didn't really feel any connection to any of them, except maybe to Cristina and Serafina, but even then there was so much going on that Cristina almost fades away as a main character and Serafina doesn't have enough of an arc. Sensitive readers should also be aware that there are graphic murder details and other cruelty eg to animals is spelled out in detail.