Review

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Published: Lake Union
Date: 12th February 2019
Source:  Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley
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The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen explores the upheaval of World War 1 and the far flung impact on the people in England. Hardly one family was left untouched by loss, and if not loss – men who return deeply scarred by the experience.  Class barriers begin to tone down, women take on new roles – and The Victory Garden gave me, the reader a taste of that.

Emily – the main character was someone I came to really like and admire. She is a middle class woman with a Judge as a father. Her mother is very cognisant of class and was rather a sad case to behold. Because they had lost their son in the first year of the war they kept a tight hold on Emily and would not allow her to help out in the war effort. And the question of them is – when the chips are down “Does family matter?”

When Emily turns twenty one though all that changes and she sets off to become a land girl. The work is hard, but she is willing to give it a go and in doing so forms meaningful relationships with women of lower class and means.

The story moves along at a good pace and I found myself picking up the book happily at any chance I had. I loved the journey Emily had to take to find herself and her place among community. And she is supported by a very likeable group of people. I don’t want to give away all that happens to her, so no more.

If you enjoy books about the English countryside, people banding together in hard times and a heroine who ‘comes of age’ then I think you’d enjoy this.

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Review

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

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Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: 20th February 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 329
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley

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In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

 

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In the Tuscan Child Rhys Bowen has written a novel with a dual time line. One part is set in Tuscany during World War 11 time, where Hugo – an English pilot is forced to eject from his damaged plane. Badly injured he is helped by Sofia – a local young woman. She hides him in bombed monastery and carries food to him when she can.

As well we meet Joanna – Hugo’s daughter, in 1973 returning home to Langley Hall on the sudden death of her father. She finds some items amongst his things that lead her on a journey to Tuscany to find answers to her questions.  From her we receive a picture of Hugo as an old defeated man, out of touch with his daughter. Yet in the mid 1940’s we see a completely different Hugo.

Mystery surrounds what went on in that small village during the war, how did Hugo and Sofia not end up together?  The town has one story but is that correct? Joanna finds welcome from some in the village but not from others. Her hostess is lovely and soon has her sampling all kinds of wonderful Tuscany cooking. Yet there seems to be something not quite right going on, a bad force at work.

While Joanna finds the son of Sofia still alive – Renzo, it takes awhile for him to warm to her, however soon they are working together to find the answers Joanna is seeking about her father and his cryptic note he tried to send Sofia.

I enjoyed the Tuscany setting and the description of the food and people. Sofia was a warm, courageous young woman, Hugo a man changed by her, Joanna a daughter kept somewhat at arm’s length but still with a connection to her father, that makes her determined to find out what went on here in San Salvatore during the war.  And the day of reckoning for some is about to take place.