World War II Italy comes into high relief in Rhys Bowen’s poignant tale of a downed British pilot and the daughter who returns to Tuscany a generation later to understand why her father’s life changed so dramatically following his time there.
The Tuscan Child opens in December 1944. Hugo Langley is piloting a British bomber over northern Italy when the plane is shot down. Wounded in the process, he parachutes into a deeply wooded area in Tuscany, where a young local woman helps hide him from German soldiers, tends to his wound, and surreptitiously feeds him.
The scene suddenly shifts to April 1973. Joanna Langley has only recently emerged from the hospital in London following a traumatic accident and the end of a love affair when she must attend her father’s funeral in Surrey. Sir Hugo was only sixty-four, and he has left behind little other than a trunkful of old papers and mementos. (“I might have had a father with a title, but he was the art master at the school [that now occupied Langley Hall]. I lived in the lodge and I was attending the school on a scholarship.”) But what Joanna finds among the papers takes her by surprise, convincing her that she had known little about her father.
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (2018) 329 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
She soon sets out for Tuscany in hopes of learning the secrets that lie at the heart of his story. “Maybe I would answer the questions of why a brilliant young painter suddenly stopped painting and why for the rest of his life he was a hollow, remote, and depressed man.”
World War II Italy: village partisans, retreating Germans, and Allied bombing
Alternating chapters between December 1944 and April 1973, Rhys Bowen patiently reveals the dramatic circumstances that upended Sir Hugo’s plans for the future and now threaten his daughter’s life. Because the secrets she seeks to uncover in the Tuscan village of San Salvatore will cast a harsh light on the villagers’s experience of World War II and change her life forever.
About the author
Rhys Bowen is the pen name of the bestselling English author Janet Quin-Harkin. She has written three series of mystery novels — a total of forty books to date — under that name as well as one historical novel about World War I and two about World War II. She now divides her time between Marin County, California, and Arizona.
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