My thanks go out to the lovely Sarah, representing publisher Bookouture, for securing me a spot on this ‘Books On Tour’ journey.
As ever, additional thanks go out to NetGalley, for their excellent download and review service.
THE ITALIAN ISLAND
My darling girl, don’t make the same mistakes as I did. Now that my life is coming to an end, take your grandmother’s bracelet, unlock the secret of our family history, and discover who you are…
Twenty-year-old Annie arrives on the Sicilian island of Galatea carrying nothing but grief for the father she just lost in her heart and the weight of the mystery she just inherited on her shoulders. All she knows about her grandmother is that she died in a concentration camp during World War Two. But when handsome local fisherman Salvo’s sea-blue eyes sparkle at the sight of the delicate gold band around her wrist, Annie knows she’s come to the right place.
With Salvo as her guide – taking her hand along the twisting paths up to the cliffside villa her grandmother once called home – Annie doesn’t know if it’s his warm touch or the sun-kissed villa’s vine-covered splendour that takes her breath away. Inside, she finds a beautiful antique gramophone hidden beneath a dusty sheet. Setting the needle, she unlocks the secret of a sacred tradition known only to the women on the island, and with it, the story of her grandmother’s heart-shattering wartime sacrifice.
With every day that passes, Annie is drawn deeper into the island’s rich and tragic history, and finally feels herself begin to heal. But as the past crashes into her present – and she realises the significance of the bracelet she wears and the devastating lengths her grandmother went to protect those she loved – will the truth about her grandmother’s identity have her running into Salvo’s strong arms, or getting on the next flight back to America?
An absolutely heart-wrenching page-turner about how the catastrophic consequences of war can echo through generations, and the power that true love has to save us all. From the author of million-copy bestseller, Watch Over Me, and Amazon Number 1 bestseller, The Italian Villa, this is the perfect one-sitting read for anyone who adores Fiona Valpy, Victoria Hislop, or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.
Daniela was born and raised in Italy. She studied Classics, then lived in Scotland for fourteen years, where she married and taught in a primary school.
She writes beautiful, haunting and bestselling fiction for adults (the Glen Avich series), young adults (the Sarah Midnight trilogy) and children. Her novels have been translated in twelve languages.
Her debut novel Watch Over Me was named the eighth bestselling Kindle book of all time in 2015, when she was also ranked as the eleventh top-selling Kindle author.
She lives in a small village in the middle of nowhere, with her Scottish husband and family.
Visit Daniela at her Website
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“This novel was long in the making, and like most books of mine its elements have brewed in my mind for years before being shaped into a story. The ideas of fabric born of the sea and long-lost civilisations of the Mediterranean, layered with the recurrent theme of different destinies during the upheaval of the Second World War, and led by the story of a contemporary girl looking for her place in the world, are the building bricks of The Italian Island. I feel that we can all relate to the search for home and family, young and old – a search that maybe never stops, because the ultimate home is inside ourselves”
FEARS OF THE FATHERS
The sand is dry and prickly under my feet, full of little jagged stones. The water beyond me, instead, looks like pure happiness. Nonna is standing strong and upright on the sea-rock beside me, her black-grey hair blowing in the wind, ready to dive. She straightens the bag she carries across her body when she goes underwater to gather the shells. It’s the first time I ask her for an explanation – the first time I don’t take for granted that I can’t follow her into the sweet, cool waters. ‘Why can I not come with you?’
Nonna is taken aback – I can see it in her eyes – but her answer is swift and clear. ‘Because the sea will take you.’
TWO GIRLS – LONDON, ENGLAND – 19 OCTOBER 1920
‘If you don’t stop telling me to push, I swear when this is finished, I’ll strangle you with my bare hands,’ Violet Goodman hissed with a force that belied the hours spent trying to give birth to a stubborn, stubborn baby, who quite simply refused to come out.
Violet wanted it over and done with. They already had one child, and a boy: what was the need for another one? But her husband would not see reason. Avram Goodman wanted an heir and a spare to inherit the family diamond business, and Violet, already dreading the morning sickness, the ruining of her figure and having to cancel more social engagements than she could count, had been forced to agree. Labour was the last hurdle. Then, the nannies would do their part and she could forget all about it.
But the baby seemed determined to make her suffer – and suffer she did until the end, when, with a wail of pure rage, Violet pushed her second child out and into the world.
“And so, Mira’s life began. The pattern of disappointing everyone’s expectations continued as she grew to be defiant when she should have been compliant, and sickly when she should have been strong – not a very inviting prospect as a wife for another rich family’s heir – but most of all, she bore the primal fault that had thwarted so many lives, in so many places, in so many ages and times since the very beginning of human history: she was a girl, when she should have been a boy”
“One thing I knew: nobody would ever love me or understand me as my father had done. He’d left me alone in a world I did not belong to”
“His and Elvira’s project was so worthy. I was almost jealous that he should have this goal, this singlemindedness in his life. I had no idea what to do with myself yet – there was nothing I wanted desperately, or I believed in with all my heart. I hoped that this trip would uncover more than my family history: I hoped it would uncover…me.”
” I have nothing to be ashamed about. Not this time. I won’t have shame taint what’s not tainted, in the name of the past”
“No. I see through Mira’s eyes, I speak through her mouth… I feel and sense everything around her. It’s like I am her”
“I cried for a long time, the kind of sobbing you can only indulge in when you’re alone, and the child inside you is doing the crying for both the little girl you were and the woman you’ve become”
“Take your grandmother’s bracelet, unlock the secret of our family history, and discover who you are…”
Wow! This was not at all what I was expecting!
Romance, magic, myth and a little fantasy, all wonderfully intertwined to create a heart-breaking, beautifully poignant, richly atmospheric storyline.
Daniela is a new to me author, although I shall definitely be adding more of her books to my ‘wish list’. She is an amazingly consummate storyteller, whose skill in the imagery her words can evoke, added such great visual depth and range to the lovely descriptive narrative. So strong and almost tactile was the sense of time and place, I became totally immersed in the lives of Mira, Mimi, Annie and Elvira, and was sad when I realised that I had turned the final page and my journey was at an end.
I can share a short resume of the storyline, however to try and explain the nuances and sheer magic of the writing, would be almost impossible without giving away way too many spoilers and leaving you with far more questions than answers. Even to say that the short, fluent chapters, were narrated in alternate timelines by Mira and Annie themselves, is perhaps a little ambiguous in itself, as Annie does in fact speak for them both, but that’s about all I want to give away!
Mira and Annie, separated by a generation, are both the unwanted daughters of strong and demanding mothers, which has left them both feeling rather vulnerable and fragile of mind. Whereas Mira’s brother is doted on and cossetted by both his parents; Annie is an only child and her father is all too aware of the strained relationship she has with her mother, for which he more than compensates, so close are they.
By 1939, Mira has well and truly blotted her copybook with her parents, so with a broken heart, an irreparably damaged reputation and a deeply troubled mind, she is banished to the tiny Island of Galatea, with a veritable suitcase full of pills and medication to keep her compliant and see out the impending war. There, she becomes firm and fast friends with one of the villa’s staff, Mimi. The local doctor Lupo, helps Mimi in her quest to restore Mira’s health and give her release from the overwhelming secret she has had to bear alone. But as the war rages on around them, Mira’s spoilt and selfish brother Gavriel, brings trouble to the peaceful isolation of the island and now it is Mira’s turn to try and save Mimi from his spell, before she gets hurt.
Fast forward to 2018, when Annie suddenly loses her father, only to discover that he has disinherited his wife in her favour, and has left his dying wish that she take her new found wealth, follow the few clues he has managed to gather and the single tangible possession he has from his mother, to try and trace the birth family he never knew, as he was adopted as a baby. Annie’s journey also takes her to Galatea and following in Mira’s footsteps, she finds herself staying in the same bedroom at the lovely Villa Onde, where she falls under the tender ministrations of local islander, Elvira. Annie immediately feels the connection between herself and Mira, as their metaphoric paths begin to cross and their stories converge almost immediately. There is something about the island which leads both girls to discover an inner rebellious strength neither knew they possessed and each finds a true island love, which transcends their wildest imaginations and dreams, although such happiness and contentment doesn’t come without huge personal cost.
The power and sheer magnetism of the women of Galatea, is clear for all to witness and their mystical powers have withstood the test of time and the passing years, as Elvira reveals to Annie the secrets of the past and why Mira and Mimi are such an important part of that history. The island has woven its magic around Annie and she can’t think of anywhere else she would rather be.
Daniela forms a wonderfully fluent and structured and multi-layered storyline, which evolves naturally and generically without any sense of being forced or rushed to any conclusions or endings, allowing me to be carried away by the solitude and tranquillity of this beautiful setting, which enhances the air of magical mystery, despite the unwelcome and devastating impact of interruptions and intrusions by a world at war outside of its watery borders, I had all but forgotten about. Evocatively atmospheric, emotionally intense and beautifully textured, the visual depth and skilful imagery with words, adds some amazing depth and range, which held me in thrall and completely immersed me. There are many twists and turns in this winding road of a story and I never foresaw the eventual outcome before it actually happened.
An eclectic mix of well defined and developed characters only serve to complete, compliment and populate this compelling picture. The synergy between them and the positive energy they exude is tangible, and whilst they are often complex and emotional, raw, vulnerable and passionate, as befits their Italian island connections; they are always genuine, believable, authentic and easy to identify with. They have been afforded a large and generous voice by the author, with which to guide me through their story, with their narrative and dialogue lovingly documented from the heart.
What typically makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination and stimulate my senses. This story was definitely one of a kind, so I can only recommend that you read it for yourself and see where your journey leads you!
A complimentary kindle download of this book for review, was made available by the publisher and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
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