Mandy Robotham comes to the blog today with a story of the Italian Resistance in Venice – and the granddaughter who dug the story out of small bits of paper in boxes with
The Secret Messenger
If you have ONE book to grab before the end of 2019 – grab this one! I was enchanted with Robotham’s writing in our first encounter with A Woman of War – a story of a woman who worked as a midwife pre-war, and after finding herself afoul of the “Nazi” rulemakers, was brought to a camp- then used for her skills in the mountain retreat – even with her ‘loyalty’ being a question. From an alternate perspective peppered with actual events, the author made connecting to and understanding the heroine’s motives clear and compelling. And she’s done the same in this dual-timeline story that begins with Luisa, grieving a mother who was remote at best, now in possession of clues that seem to lead to a dramatic life for her beloved Grandmother, Stella. Through a photograph of a man with her grandmother that Luisa doesn’t recognize, and a few other clues – she wants to discover just what her grandmother did during the war, and why her mother (or grandmother) never mentioned it.
Stella’s story from 1943 Venice is equally compelling, Venetian by birth and steeped in the ‘tradition” of Venice first, with a family that was most assuredly anti-Fascist, her movement from a city works department into the ‘command center’ of the Nazis in Venice, along with her facility with language and her typing make her a perfect messenger and worker for the Resistance. When you add in the fact that her grandfather was a huge proponent of free speech and democratic values, and many of his friends were ‘captains’ in the anti-fascist resistance, she was a natural fit.
From Stella’s story and the questions and dangers she faces to Luisa’s trying to discover the truths of her grandmother’s life and find people who knew her some 70 years earlier – the story is told in alternating moments, each one building the tension and impact of the other. Truly this story transported me to Venice now and then, as well as the information about the clever ways they ‘tricked’ the Nazis, along with the lovely inclusion of a story or hope into the local paper produced with ‘real news’ gleaned from the BBC World Services – the character of Stella comes alive and fuels the interest in Luisa and her search. Truly, Robotham has done a masterful job of creating characters and giving them the questions, traits and courage that we all hope for in our ancestors, and bringing the information about a Resistance fight that many didn’t know existed on such an embedded and integral scale. I love what this author brings to history, mixing fiction and fact together to bring a story that instantly places readers into the “what would I do or risk” mindset, making this story one that should be read for the sheer enjoyment and it’s ability to transport.
Title: The Secret Messenger
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Family Saga, Historic Elements, Historic Woman's Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Setting: Italy, Sociological Relevancy, Suspense Elements, Woman's Fiction, World War II
Published by: Avon Books UK
Published on: 12 December, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 27 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
The world is at war, and Stella Jilani is leading a double life. By day she works in the lion’s den as a typist for the Reich; by night, she risks her life as a messenger for the Italian resistance. Against all odds, Stella must impart Nazi secrets, smuggle essential supplies and produce an underground newspaper on her beloved typewriter.
But when German commander General Breugal becomes suspicious, it seems he will stop at nothing to find the mole, and Stella knows her future could be in jeopardy.
Years later, Luisa Belmont finds a mysterious old typewriter in her attic. Determined to find out who it belonged to, Luisa delves into the past and uncovers a story of fierce love, unimaginable sacrifice and, ultimately, the worst kind of betrayal…
Set between German-occupied 1940s Venice and modern-day London, this is a fascinating tale of the bravery of everyday women in the darkest corners of WWII, for readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.