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Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines Paperback – 16 Apr 2016
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About the Author
Angela Petch is a prize-winning author who lives six months of the year in Tuscany and the remaining half year in Sussex, England. She lived in Rome for six formative years, where her passion for Italy was born. "Tuscan Roots" is her first novel and a sequel was published in April 2017: "Now and Then in Tuscany". Angela Petch also writes short stories that appear in national magazines in Great Britain. Both books are written in English but have Italian content.
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Tuscan Roots is, on one level, a tale of two love stories, set a generation apart, as we follow the lives of Anna and, through the letters and writings she has been left, Innes – Anna’s late mother. And yet it is also so much more.
I soon found myself engaged in the lives of the lead characters, both past and present, English and Italian. The story was beautifully told, with emotive language describing the landscape, both in Tuscany and in post-war England, weaved into the narrative.
Innes’ diaries are heartfelt and honest, giving an insight into her hopes and dreams, as well as the turmoil she ultimately finds herself in. To a modern audience, as to her daughter Anna, Innes’ decisions can seem frustrating at times. However, as you read her story, learn her motives and gain a greater understanding about the circumstances of the life she finds herself in, you cannot help but feel for her – and the men and women of her generation.
While Anna’s journey through the novel is less dramatic than that of Innes’ it is a wonderful tale of self-discovery, of learning who she really is and of discovering the Tuscan Roots her mother ultimately got to share with her.
A great read, with characters who will stay with you long after the book is closed.
There is nothing like a bundle of old letters, a secret diary or a dusty old manuscript to get the imaginative juices flowing and this one certainly does not disappoint. It’s a riveting story and all the more interesting for being, I suspect, not that unusual after WW2, when war proved a catalyst for romance between people of different nationalities. In those cases, as here, the difficulties of melding languages and cultures, of one partner having to leave behind everything familiar to begin a new life in a strange land make for heart-rending human interest stories.
Tuscan Roots is told in two time-frames. 1999 sees Anna travel to her mother’s birthplace in the beautiful Tuscan mountains where, with the help of the local community she is able to translate and piece together the storyline of her parents’ courtship. The people she meets and the places she visits are vividly described - landscape colour and local kindness both make the setting powerfully attractive. This portion of the narrative is related in the present tense, which makes it immediate, as though the story is unfurling as we read, but this is not an easy thing to pull off.
Interleaved with Anna’s story are flashbacks to her mother’s diaries and also to some of her father’s wartime journal. The writer handles these changes in point of view very deftly and we get a very clear idea of the different characters. I especially enjoyed the more mature writings of Ines as she had to come to terms with the effect the war has had on her husband and the hard graft of marriage when the first flush of romance has died.
As you would expect, the denouement of both tales is the point when the past hits the present, and this came off brilliantly. What’s more, I happen to know there is a future, as I have read the sequel, ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’, also highly recommended.
With detailed accounts of the war, this story exposes human frailties. A times it made me sad, and at others angry. I sensed the start of a passionate love story when Anna’s father, a British prisoner of war, was nursed back to health by Innes family. Yet her story is not a happy one.
Whilst reading, I could not help but LOVE the descriptions of Tuscany, the countryside, the people and the food. Love seems to blossom in many unexpected places and despite an undercurrent of despair, it is a tale that kindles the heart. I really liked it.
Anna is the protagonist of this well-written novel. When Innes, her Tuscan mother, dies, she leaves Anna her diaries, while her brother inherits the house, and her sister inherits the jewellery. After reading her mother's engrossing diaries, about life in Tuscany during World War II, Anna decides to go to Tuscany to find out more about how her parents met and fell in love. Little does Anna realise that the legacy her mother left her is worth so much more than what her siblings received.
The beautiful descriptions of Tuscany and its people are conveyed with authenticity, as are those of Britain's Word War period when Anna's British father was a prisoner of war.
The plot is handled skilfully and keeps you reading right up to the unpredictable ending. I can certainly recommend it.
There is a sequel to this novel entitled Now and Then in Tuscany. That will certainly go in my future reading pile.
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