Title: The Italian Villa
Author: Daniela Sacerdoti
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Publication date: 17th February 2019
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
“Inspired by true events, and for fans of The Beekeeper’s Promise and The Tuscan Child, comes a passionate, heartbreaking and absolutely unputdownable story of two remarkable women, separated by history, finding the courage to look for light in the darkest places.
As she staggers through the woods towards the smoky remains of her village, she sees the wounded, all those familiar faces covered in blood and ashes, and remembers she isn’t just a woman; she is a doctor, and she is needed…
1938 – A young Italian couple cling to each other in the shadow of the Montevino mountains, Mussolini’s call to war ringing in their ears. They vow to stay together, no matter what, and hatch a plan to wed in secret before fleeing to the woods to join the resistance.
Present Day – Callie Di Giacomo, a waitress from Texas, is still reeling from the discovery that she is adopted when she arrives in Montevino in search of answers – the keys to the stunning hillside villa she just inherited clutched tightly in her hand. In her birth mother’s wardrobe grief-stricken Callie finds a diary belonging to a woman named Elisa Stella, one of Italy’s first ever female students of medicine, wrapped in pale blue ribbon.
Page by page, Callie unravels the story of a passionate young doctor who risked everything to marry her sweetheart, who was betrayed by her own people, and forced into hiding as Montevino was invaded. Elisa knew she must survive against all odds to see her loved ones again. But history had other plans…
As the diary ends, a startling revelation about who Elisa was offers a chance for Callie to heal past wounds and spark a new future. But is she brave enough to take it?
This unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me, is perfect for anyone who loved The Letter, The Tattooist of Auschwitz or The Dressmaker’s Gift.”
On her twenty-first birthday Callie discovers that she is adopted and has inherited a villa in a remote Italian village from her birth mother. The news both overwhelm and excite her as we soon find out that her adoptive parents died in a tragic accident when she was a child. Inspired by the prospect that she may still have living relations, she embarks on an adventure that will take her to her new home and reveal the family she never knew she had. When she discovers a stack of old handwritten letters from someone called Elisa, she is certain that she is even closer to finding out the truth about her birth parents.
My favourite aspect of this book was most definitely the setting. The gorgeous Montevino is portrayed as a blissful and cozy Italian village with a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. The author develops this idea beautifully and the eloquent and poetic writing perfectly match the setting. I was also impressed by her ability to explore complex family relationships, in particular when addressing Elisa and her family which mirrors Callie’s in many ways.
There were several minor characters in this book which stood out for different reasons: Flora for her stubbornness and Elisa for her determination. I could not warm to the male characters and found Callie’s love interest uninteresting but I think that this is ultimately a personal feeling as I don’t always appreciate romance enough in Historical Fiction. However, this minor touch wasn’t enough to sway my original feelings of the book.
The Italian Villa is a literary gem which transports the reader on an adventure and interprets hard hitting topics such as loneliness and family relationships with ease. I devoured it in just two sittings and was left with a feeling of warmth and serenity which stayed with me for a long time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to escape to another place and time and join a charming main character on an exciting adventure.
The Italian Villa is out to buy next Monday!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.