A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart

letter from italy.jpg

Title: A Letter from Italy

Author: Pamela Hart

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 14th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 353

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Inspired by the life of the world’s first woman war correspondent, Australia’s Louise Mack, the most gorgeous love story yet by Pamela Hart.

1917, Italy. Australian journalist Rebecca Quinn is an unconventional woman. At the height of World War I, she has given up the safety of her Sydney home for the bloody battlefields of Europe, following her journalist husband to the frontline as a war correspondent in Italy.

Reporting the horrors of the Italian campaign, Rebecca finds herself thrown together with American-born Italian photographer Alessandro Panucci, and soon discovers another battleground every bit as dangerous and unpredictable: the human heart.

~*~

aww2017-badgeA Letter From Italy opens with Rebecca bidding a fond farewell to her husband Jack before he departs on a journalistic assignment, leaving her in Italy, where she must wait for him to return, whilst working on her journalistic career, and finding stories that will see her departure from the Women’s Pages of the newspaper she works for to the serious, hard hitting journalism that at the time, was seen as the domain of the male journalist, as was the role of war correspondent, reporting on all aspects of the war, whereas Rebecca was encouraged to report on what affected the home front and women, rather than the battles and bombings that destroyed lives. Using her knowledge of the area and a kind hearted American photographer with Italian heritage, Sandro to help her, Rebecca starts writing stories that matter, and sends them to the newspapers, whilst hoping her husband is still alive, and showing the male journalists that she can cope. Her feminist views come out when young Italian girls are surprised at how many rights she has as a woman, that she can vote – and that she doesn’t need to do what her husband says.

A revelation of just how supportive Jack has been of her career comes later in the novel – and pushes Rebecca to confront the editors and work on more articles to get herself – and Sandro, her photographer noticed, especially after a small village is bombed during the course of the war, and tragedy seeps into every corner.

During this time, one of the journalists Rebecca thought she could trust begins to act suspiciously, the results of which were surprising – and led to events that I could not have expected.

The budding romance between Rebecca and Sandro is slotted in nicely – I liked that it was hinted at here and there, through their thoughts, and that their ambitions in photography and journalism were given a lot more attention, creating well-rounded characters whose relationship was one of respect, and friendship, as well as love, in a time of war.

A Letter from Italy is a fascinating historical novel that explores gender expectations and assumptions, and how at first glance, not everyone is who they seem to be. It shows how tragedies like war can show people for who they really are.

It is a novel that incorporates history, and the tragedy of war, with expectations of gender and the traditions of one country that have been around for generations, and the contrast of these with a young country, women’s rights and the freedom Rebecca has. This contrast also illustrates that though Rebecca has the freedoms to vote and be a journalist, she is in some ways hampered by gender expectations and assumptions.

The first Pamela Hart novel I have read, and one of the better romance novels I have read where the characters are more than just the love story, and have goals of their own that they set out to achieve before a bittersweet happily ever after.

Booktopia

 

Love, Lies and Linguine

 

 

love lies linguine.jpgTitle: Love, Lies and Linguine

Author: Hilary Spiers

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: February 2017/25 January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: When two widowed sisters embark on a holiday to Italy, they have no idea that the trip will upend their comfortable lives forever. From the author of Hester and Harriet.

‘This is a great read. The sisters are wonderful characters filled with life, and the story has lots of quirky village characters. Hester and Harriet would be a perfect addition to your summer reading list.’ Good Reading, 4-star review of Hester & Harriet

Hester and Harriet lead comfortable lives in a pretty cottage in an English village. Having opened their minds, home and hearts to Daria, a mysterious migrant, and her baby son Milo, the widowed sisters decide to further expand their own horizons by venturing forth to Italy for their annual holiday.

Back in England, Daria and Milo are celebrating – they’ve received official refugee status with papers to confirm they can make England their home. Meanwhile nephew Ben, who knows only too well how much he owes his aunts, is hurtling towards a different sort of celebration – one he’s trying to backpedal out of as fast as he possibly can.

With a huge secret hanging between the sisters, an unlikely new love on the landscape for Hester and new beginnings also beckoning for Harriet, Italy provides more opportunities for adventure than either of them could ever have imagined. But which ones will Hester and Harriet choose?

As Hester and Harriet throw all their cards on the table in Italy, and potential catastrophe threatens Ben in England, it’s anyone’s guess how chaos will be kept at bay.

~*~

Love, Lies and Linguine picks up from 2015’s Hester and Harriet, where we left off with Daria, her son Milo, and brother Artem applying for refugee status in Britain from Belarus, and Hester and Harriet’s nephew, Ben, finding out what he wanted to do after school. In this lovely, and amusing follow up to the 2015 novel, Hester and Harriet take a holiday to Italy for a birthday – Harriet takes part in an art class, whilst Hester enjoys a cooking class with a well-known chef, and the company of Lionel Parchment, an elderly gentleman also there that week.

While they’re away, their nephew, Ben, is convinced by some school acquaintances, to throw a party at the empty house his aunts live in, The Laurels. Ben’s defiant no is ignored, and he is soon embroiled in a world of secrecy, trying to hide the party from his parents. However, Ben is not the only one with secrets to keep from people, especially post-party. Harriet is faced with something she thought she’d never have to face, and Hester’s secret about her and Lionel will almost rip the usually close sisters apart.

I first stumbled across Hester and Harriet about a year ago, and found the different style intriguing. Using phrases such as Hester says, or Harriet finds Ben made the story interesting and inviting – it allowed the reader to see into their lives, and it worked when the story had to change perspective between the sisters, or Ben – in both novels. In Love, Lies and Linguine, the story goes between England – Ben, and Italy – Hester or Harriet – over the course of a week. Each section is a day of the week – structuring it in a way that shows and tells with a balance that I rarely find – and it works to tell the story. Every event or conversation – big or small – has an impact on the outcome of the story, Harriet faces her past, Ben faces up to his mistakes, and finds a way to fix things for his aunts before they find out, and Hester faces a new love.

Full of laughs throughout, and a sense of mystery about a few plot points that fit the plot nicely, Love, Lies and Linguine is a wonderful summer read, or any time read. I particularly enjoyed the very last lines, having a little chuckle to myself. It is a charming read, about normal people and the extraordinary things that happen to them at times, but also about life, and confronting things you don’t necessarily want to confront. They tied in nicely with the rest of the plot, and the characters of Hester and Harriet.

Booktopia

Between Enemies by Andrea Molesini

Between enemies.jpgTitle: Between Enemies

Author: Andrea Molesini

Publisher: Atlantic

Category: Fiction

Pages: 348

Available formats: Print

Publication Date: 18/11/15

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: November 1917. When Austrian forces advance into Northern Italy, the aristocratic Spada family finds their estate requisitioned by enemy soldiers. A cruel act of violence against a group of local village girls sparks their desire for revenge. The whole family – from the eccentric grandparents to the secretive servants – have their own ideas about how to fight the enemy, but their courage is soon put to the test and it seems that some are willing to compromise. Seventeen-year-old Paolo Spada, the youngest member of the family, is forced to bear witness as his once proud family succumbs to acts of love and hate, jealousy and betrayal.

~*~

Between Enemies is a different kind of war story. Most war stories, whether they are set in The First World War or the Second World War, have a focus on major events or major players in the war, such as Gallipoli, or specific battles, or when set in World War Two, a focus on Nazi-occupied territories and themes of the Holocaust and resistance, just to name a few common themes that are utilised effectively. These books and stories give valuable insight into how the world operated during wartime.

In Between Enemies, the effect of The First World War, and in particular, the relationship between the Italian and Austrian forces occupying a small village where the Spada family live. The seventeen year old protagonist, Paolo, bears witness to the enemy taking over their villa, and enacting violent attacks against young girls in the village. Through these events, he is exposed to the atrocities of the war that have plagued his teenage years, and his family’s varying responses to the events that have led to the occupation of their home, and its transformation into a hospital for the wounded.

The theme of war is dark yet it is Paolo’s light heart and vision for a future beyond the war, death and blood that surrounds him that shines through the novel from beginning to end, keeping the story alive.

Though it is slowly paced for the vast majority of the book, apart from the closing chapters, the pacing works for the story. It is about a family coping with the consequence of an invading power in their country, their village and their home. It is about how they come to deal with this, and what becomes of them towards the end of the war and their fight against these people.

A translation from Italian, this book wove an intriguing tale about how one family managed to cope with invasion, and what it meant for them at the end of the war, when the invasion was over.