The author’s previous book, The Lost Wife (a must-read!), took us into the World War II Nazi concentrations camps in Czechoslovakia and Germany with skill, compassion, and exceptional faithfulness to the historical record. Here the author returns to that time period, but in this book she shows us what it was like for the people in Italy.
This story is told from two points of view, that of Elodie Bertolotti, a young cello prodigy aged 20 in Verona, and Angelo Roselli, a 38-year-old doctor in Portofino. As the story begins in October, 1943, Elodie has just arrived in Portofino, where Angelo rescues Elodie from possible apprehension by the Germans checking papers at the dock.
The narrative then goes back in time – eight years prior for Angelo and six months earlier for Elodie, to show us how the two got to where they were in the beginning of the book.
Angelo had been part of the military deployment to Ethiopia. Shortly before, he had married the beautiful girl Dahlia whom he met in his final year in medical school.
Elodie and her best friend Lena joined the partisans in Verona after Elodie’s father had been brutalized by the Blackshirts. Elodie acts as a messenger, using her facility with memory as well as music to aid the resistance.
When Elodie and Angelo meet in Portofino, they both have lived through what seemed like a lifetime of fear, pain, shock, and sorrow. The light that was so bright in their lives has surrendered to darkness. They come to realize that they have each been given the key to figure out how to honor the love of those they lost, and still carry on with their lives.
Discussion: There are so many wonderful parts to this story that I don’t want to spoil, so you will have to discover them on your own. But I would be remiss not to point out the many lovely ways in which Elodie’s immersion into music informs her perspective of the world. Books also play a central role in this story. In particular, one of my favorite books in the whole world is the one that teaches Elodie and Angelo something very important about the nature of love.
Evaluation: This author is so good. She combines historical integrity with the ability to tell a wonderful story. In an afterword, she explains the true stories that became the bases for this novel, and I encourage readers to explore this touching coda to the book.
Published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a Penguin Random House Company, 2014