A stolen painting in the pocket of my large handbag

Popular author, Anne Allen, released ‘The Betrayal’, on 22nd October.  ‘The Betrayal’ is the sixth book in the Guernsey Series.  Anne Allen has kindly selected an exclusive extract for Books in my Handbag.  The dual-time novel unfolds in the present day and during World War Two.  It is set against the backdrop of the German deportation of the Jewish community, in Guernsey, and involves a stolen Renoir painting. 

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love. 

‘The Betrayal’ is tense, powerful and spellbinding.

Anne will introduce her new novel, present an extract and tell you more about the intricate narrative.

Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present my latest in the Guernsey Novels series, ‘The Betrayal’.

This extract is from the beginning of the book and is the prelude to the modern part of the story, giving you a taste of the tension throughout the book.

Keep a copy of the book in your bag to dip into whenever you have a moment, you won’t regret it!

Happy Reading☺

Anne x

Presenting the extract:

Guernsey 2011

Something was wrong. The alarm didn’t blast out as he pushed open the back door of the shop. Standing still, he heard a noise. Someone was in the shop. Or more accurately, the basement. Nigel paused as he closed the door quietly behind him, his heart hammering against his ribs as he debated what to do. Whoever was in there knew how to disable a burglar alarm otherwise lights would be flashing and a discordant wail would be piercing the air. Best to shut them in the basement and call the police. Following the thought, he crept into the main shop, guided by the dim light coming through the rear window. His eyes adjusting to the dimness, Nigel tried to pick out the area where a rug should cover the trapdoor. For a moment he wondered who could have known about the basement, only discovered a few weeks before when they completed the renovations and replaced the flooring. Odd. And why the basement when the shop was full of valuable antiques?

Crouched at the edge of the hole, light from a torch casting shadows below, he was about to push the open door downwards when a hand snaked up and grabbed his arm.

More about ‘The Betrayal’…

Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.

Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

Nigel and his twin Fiona buy a long-established antiques shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…

Searching for the true owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo?

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

What do the reviewers think of ‘The Betrayal’?

‘I am a huge fan of Anne Allen’s Guernsey series in which various locations are lovingly described. With the ‘suicide’ of her twin brother, this book has an orally different feel as Fiona tries to get to the bottom of it. With an undiscovered Renoir and links to WW2 this book has a much darker feel to it.’ Julie Ryan

‘Great characters and of course a love connection with a happy ending.’ Karen’s World

‘Having read Anne’s last book, Echoes of Time, I couldn’t wait to read her latest, and I wasn’t disappointed. The novel alternates between WW2 and 2011 and is set on the beautiful island of Guernsey. The Betrayal features twins, Fiona and Nigel, who discover a Renoir within the walls of their antique shop in 2011. When Nigel is found dead, and suicide is suspected, Fiona refuses to believe that her brother would end his own life and she sets out to uncover the truth. Unravelling the mystery will carry her on a journey back to 1940, and to the dark days of the German Occupation and the deportation of Jews.’ S. Charlton

And finally…

A late-comer to writing, Anne was a psychotherapist in a previous life.   Readers are lucky that Anne decided to tell her stories. Anne admits her characters do get under her skin and she misses Fiona and Michael, in particular. I look forward to discovering more about the characters and solving the mysteries presented by this delicious time-slip novel.

You can find out more about Anne Allen here.

 

Please see all the specially chosen extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com

 

Meet an explorer of the dark corners of history

Annabel Fielding

 

 

 

 

 

Annabel arrived at my Chat Room in the middle of September.   The autumnal feeling was already in the atmosphere, and I was tempted to light a fire.  Annabel was wearing black jeans and a loose blue blouse, clearly indicating that she is not yet prepared to say a decisive farewell to summer.  Her handbag was slightly bulky – spacious enough to fit in all the possible gadgets and tools of trade, including, perhaps, an odd typewriter.

She was feeling rather tired after a long journey.  Inspired by Annabel’s interest in tea, I had been to a specialist shop, in Bath, to buy some tea.  Annabel approved of my quirky 1930s teapot and a vintage tea strainer.  Apparently, the Winter Mixture tea was perfect.  I served the tea with some shortbread biscuits.  I added stem ginger and lemon to the shortbread and the flavour worked perfectly with the tea.

Jessie:  The front cover of your debut novel looks intriguing.  Tell me more about your book. 

Annabel:  Three very different women get caught up in the political struggles of the 1930s, in three very different ways. The novel is about the allure of fascism, the allure of love, the power of art and the art of climbing to power.

Jessie:  What prompted you to write the book, and what genre does it fit into

Annabel:  I’d say it’s a cross between historical fiction and an LGBT novel. I can say it was inspired by the period dramas that followed in the wake of Downton Abbey (I think we all remember that craze!), but in a sort of twisted way. I had this desire to explore the darker side of the world they’ve showed, to dissect all the political conflicts they only hinted at.

Jessie:  How do you manage to combine a career in PR with writing?

Annabel:  Actually, I can count myself to be incredibly lucky, as most of my duties allow me to work from home and to generally keep flexible hours. Honestly, I cannot imagine how I would have kept up otherwise – scribbled during lunch breaks, probably!

Jessie:  It is such a challenge to release a debut novel.  What response have you had from the reviewers so far?

“A captivating, stylish… historical novel about the polite society, dangerous affairs … political intrigue and espionage in London in the 1930s.’ Christabel, Goodreads

“So well researched and written, this exciting time in Britain (pre-WWII) is brought life in this lively novel. ” Polly Krize, Goodreads

“A fantastic story line and wonderfully written, the plot is well thought out and a brilliant LGBT tale”. Charlotte McGlinchey, Goodreads

Jessie:  It seems as if you have researched the plot thoroughly and developed an intricate plot.  Read me a short extract from the book to tempt the reader.

‘It was as if Hester was once again cycling down the hill and feeling the wind roaring in her ears; only this time the brakes were broken, and the map was lost, and the landscape around her was full of dangers”.

Jessie:  It sounds like the character is having a difficult time here.  Can you provide a little context?

Annabel:  She is under a kind of double pressure here. She is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman… I could have ended the sentence here, as we are talking about a respectable, salt-of-the-earth, small town girl in the 1930’s; but that’s not the end of it – she is drawn into a turbulent affair with a woman, who has her own dark secrets and a continents-spanning political agenda.

Jessie:  How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Annabel: I’d say it was a mix of relief and regret. Parting with Lucy was especially painful. I missed her terribly in the months to come, the shadows in her heart and her glorious way of making trouble..

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.

Annabel: I would have loved to hear Sarah Waters’ opinion on it. Her Tipping the Velvet was a revelation for the nineteen-years-old me.

Jessie:  Would your book appeal to fans of Sarah Waters?

Annabel:  I hope so! I have always loved her mix of sensuality, unparalleled historical atmosphere and social commentary.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Annabel: That way you’d be able to get your daily dose of hot jazz, bias-cut gowns and interwar intrigue while on the Tube.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

“Into the coming storm”.

Jessie:  Is this a note for another book?  Tell me more!

Annabel:  I would be glad to say so – but, alas, my new book is still in the research phase! This from one of my drafts for the epilogue.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Annabel: For me it was to piece the intricacies of the plot together. After I was done with that, the actual writing process came surprisingly easy.

Jessie: Did you have beta readers and an editor?

Annabel:  Yes, I had good fortune to have as my editor the lovely Clio Cornish at the HQ Digital. She was a tremendous help for me, especially when it came to improving my plot flow or character development!

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Annabel: Probably to disregard the romantic ‘tortured artist’ archetype and work out methods that would cause me as little torture as possible. In my case, it was dedicating enough time to careful research, detailed outline and scene-by-scene planning.

 More about Annabel…

Annabel Fielding graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations. She is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. She also posts a mix of book reviews and travel photos on her blog at http://historygeekintown.com“. 

Annabel has always been unique.  She read The Iliad in primary school to prove everyone wrong.  She is obsessed with the dark corners of history and wants to bring them to life in her novels.  From an early age, Annabel liked to explore the world – prefect for a writer!

A tale of two continents

The Giants Look Down

 

Sonja Price

 

 

 

This gripping tale explores cultural differences, in two continents, through the life of Jaya and her brother.  An intelligent study of how one’s understanding of freedom is relative to education, experience and culture: a very poignant, contemporary message!

Jaya was born in a place where ‘the tiny mauve and yellow flowers danced in the breeze as the snowy summits of Pin Panjal meditated in the morning sun.’  Despite the beauty and implied freedom and romance of the landscape, the women are inhibited by their culture and the ugly politics of war torn Kashmir.  Jaya’s gentle, intelligent observations give an insight into her world as a Kashmiri girl.  Her mother asserts ‘you’re a girl’ and believes that ‘love rides on reason, not romance.’  It is clear Jaya is destined to search beyond this and it is impossible not to admire her questioning.

Jaya wishes on a ‘shooting star’ and the author maps out Jaya’s destiny beautifully.  The novel explores how the independent, free spirited mind can find flight if given the right opportunities.  But the opportunities must be accompanied with an inquiring mind. Jaya’s entrapment in Delhi is as stifling as the intense heat which ‘pressed down on city life like a giant hand.’ Her value, as a potential bride, diminishes once her parents have been killed.  She will find a way to escape a doomed arranged marriage – she is born to fight.

In contrast, Tahir, Jaya’s brother is forced to survive in a world of violence.  Here, Price examines how the innocent, accepting mind can become involved in terrorism.  Tahir’s life is written in the third person as he never finds his own voice.  Jaya’s story is written in the first person so that you can recognise her strength and identity.  She wants to be a wife ‘but (she) wasn’t going to give up everything.’  Ironically, the masculine stereotype and expectations shackle Tahir to a life of unfulfillment. Sadly, a lack of ambition and opportunity forces Tahir to accept his comrades as family.

Like her father, Jaya leaves ‘The Giants’ behind and moves to Scotland.  The cool Scottish breeze brings a fresh new perspective to Jaya’s life.  ‘The ocean! A slate grey stretching out to the horizon’ is symbolic of Jaya’s freedom and endless possibilities.  Meanwhile, her brother remains in Kashmir, and Tahir, believes the British to be the destructive force in his country.  He asks a British man, ‘Have you thought about the devastation your empire has left behind?’  He is unable to see how different cultures can collaborate and learn from each other. Tahir fights for his confused perception of freedom while his sister, Jaya, fights to save lives.  Jaya and Tahir’s father was a doctor. Jaya’s father involved her in his mission of caring for everyone, regardless of religion or race.

Jaya learns to inhabit the space between two cultures and finds her identity.  Her love for Alistair gives her stability, purpose and strength. Tahir is tormented by:

‘The poverty, the beauty, the peace and the violence.  Such extremes separated by the blink of an eyelid.

Tahir never examines his own world as he is too caught up in the conflict and grudges.   The natural ebb and flow of the Jaya’s narrative is enchanting while we never get inside of Tahir’s confused, inhibited mind.  The tale of two continents explores cultural difference: it is a wonderful book of contrasts.  For instance, the peaceful setting Kashmir Valley translates ‘paradise on earth’ yet it conceals conflict.  Jaya questions: ‘How could the landscape be beautiful when Alistair was suffering?’ Like Jaya, one must look beneath the surface.

This novel teaches us to have a respect and understanding of other cultures but we need the freedom to ask questions and pursue our ambition: above all, everyone needs to be loved. ‘Azadi’ (freedom) is a state of mind influenced by opportunities, the people we meet and the strength to ask pertinent questions.

A sensitive, well-crafted narrative that explores challenging themes through a beautiful central character. I recommend this novel wholeheartedly!

 

Please see all my reviews at Books In Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Alchemy in my Handbag

As if by magic, I am presenting ‘Stone Circle’ by Kate Murdoch.  The novel is a rich historical fantasy about a young man’s coming of age, as he learns about magic rituals and alchemy. I have asked Kate to present and extract of her debut novel.  She has written to her readers about the book and her chosen extract.

Dear Readers,

I would like to present you with an extract from my debut novel, ‘Stone Circle’.  

It’s a story of magic rituals and rivalry in a 16th century Italian town.

The extract, selected from the middle of the book, is a scene where my protagonist, Antonius, is being initiated as a seer. It describes the ritual he must go through. 

It is a key scene in my book, because Antonius’s life is undergoing enormous change, and the ritual is a symbol of that. 

Romance, thrilling escapes and alchemy – what’s not to love?

Best Wishes,

Kate x

 

Extract

Antonius watched the blue and amber flames as they crackled upwards, repeating the same patterns into infinity. He felt his body move to the rhythms, and realised they all moved in tandem around the fire. The music, the flames, and the night were as much a part of them as the blood coursing through their veins. The pace quickened and they followed, twisting and turning with fluidity.

Antonius’s mind was clear and untroubled. At the same time, he watched Giulia’s russet hair swing across her back and the long line of her slender white arm as she moved with perfect grace. He felt the eyes of many upon him, but he was not afraid. It was a sense of being held in the embrace of the observation, as if he were returning to the home of a friend that was as familiar as it was strange. Glancing at Giulia, he saw she scattered herbs into the flames. His nose twitched as their combined scent wafted towards him—sage, elderflower, cloves, and others. Three crystals were then released into the fire—purple, white, and gold. Several loud cracks erupted into the air and multi-coloured sparks flew, with a hiss and a whine. In a low voice Savinus chanted. It was a mellifluous language he had heard during the rituals at the blue cave. He spread his arms in an outward motion, as if clearing away smoke.

More About the Novel

Stone Circle explores themes of class, rivalry and spiritual growth. It is a historical fantasy novel.

Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?

Kate Murdoch

When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities. When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son. The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.

Reviewers’ Opinions

‘Murdoch presents a delightful romance, feathered with light touches of fantasy. The development of her love triangle is gratifying, and even secondary characters offer stark dramatic moments…’ Kirkus Reviews ‘

‘Her characters’ interactions with each other and their individualities helped shape the book into something wonderful; at the same time she excels at pacing the story with her characters, all within a framework designed to help readers understand the world of seers and alchemy she has created.’ Readers’ Favorite

‘Kate Murdoch’s fabulous writing is full of vivid sounds, sights and scents that pull us into the scene, expressed in inspired word combinations that are a joy to read. A wonderful, entertaining book.’ Gail Cleare, USA Today bestselling author

Words about Kate:

Kate is a painter turned author who enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories when she’s not writing historical fiction. Her debut novel is a romance with an element of fantasy.  Kate became completely immersed in her Renaissance town and characters when writing the novel.  Kate found it difficult to depart from the world in her novel and this bodes well for a reader intent on escape. The best of luck to Kate with her debut novel.

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Innocence and Experience in my Vintage Handbag

Maggie Christensen the Good Sister

The Good Sister

Maggie Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maggie’s inspiration for the novel

A haunting introduction from a dying woman commences this story. Isobel has written the story of her life for Bel, her niece, to read.  The narrative of the past begins in the thirties, and Isobel’s past life punctuates events in the present day.

Isobel has remained in the same house her entire life while her niece escaped to Australia.  Bel’s move to Australia symbolises the freedom of her generation – she could walk on the ‘long stretches of sand’ and feel the sun on her skin.

Glasgow: ‘She raised her eyes to the grey sky and shivered.’

In contrast Isobel has lived in cold, grey and rainy Glasgow and was inhibited by her morals. But morals seemed to have been loosened, for others, during the uncertainty of war.   But a chill of despair runs throughout Isobel’s life.

I admire the emotional parallels between Isobel’s love for Bob and Bel’s stirrings of a new love, as a mature woman,in her sixties. The contrast between Isobel’s innocence and Bel’s experience is moving; there is a beautiful connection in the feelings. I loved Isobel as she wasn’t bitter about her ‘lost chances’. Isobel seems to seek peace in orchestrating new romance for her niece.  She tells Bel, ‘I want you to get to know each other.’ The elderly lady intervenes in her niece’s happiness because she neglected her own pursuit of happiness.

The mystery of why Isobel remained alone, intrigues Bel and the reader.  Bel’s frustration with her aunt’s passivity, when younger, demonstrates the differences in the generations.

‘Bel couldn’t believe her aunt had been so foolish.’

One does wonder why Isobel denied herself opportunities, but I also felt completely frustrated with Isobel’s love interest, Bob.  Bob is also a victim of the era, as he fails to communicate with Isobel.  I really wanted to know what was happening inside Bob’s mind, and perhaps this is another novel. Why didn’t Bob speak with Isobel? I was furious with him, at times – but that is the fun of reading.

Fashion in Forties

Despite inhibitions, Isobel does have economic independence through the dress shop.  The shop is called ‘Plain and Fancy’, and I wanted to step back in time to visit place.  Perhaps, I could have found a fancy vintage handbag. Isobel’s glamorous presence throughout the novel is impressive.  Isobel is glamorous yet vulnerable, but her life experience translates into a formidable character in old age.  This made me reflect on how we change according to our experiences.

The contrast between the innocence of the young Isobel and experience of the mature Bel is poignant.  It is as if the two characters are one person experiencing the same life in a different era. The novel also shows us that ‘lost chances’ can be avoided, particularly in the twenty first century.

This is a charming, heart-warming story of second chances and the strength of family support.  The narrative moves at a good pace. I found myself hanging on to every word of Isobel’s story and willing Bel to unite with the enigmatic solicitor.  I hope there will be a sequel to this novel!

Maggie Christensen

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about the author, Maggie Christensen and heart-warming stories of second chances see:

http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/
https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor
https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen
https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33/

 

Please see all my reviews at Books In Handbag and my website and blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Coraggio (courage) in my handbag

Tuscan Roots

Angela Petch

 

 

 

 

 

On opening this beautiful book, I arrived in the ‘early morning sunshine at Perugia’, with Anna.  I sat back as she drove the Italian car and observed the way that the road ‘…cut its way through tobacco fields sprouting green shoots and [took] a mountain road joining Sansepolcro to Rimini.’  I admired the olive trees and waited as the ‘road climbed’.  It was impossible not to see the ‘lake glistening’ and to imagine the people sheltering in this setting during World War Two.

On arrival at Rofelle, I found my way through the tangle of ivy, listened to the river rushing past the stones and opened the large wooden door to the mill.   The paint was peeling, but the knocker of the lion’s head stood proud; as if to announce the courage of Davide, Ines and their parents.  I opened the door to enter the past, with Anna, through the letters and diaries.  It was wonderful to meet Anna’s mother, in the diaries, but painful to discover that her ‘heart began to shrivel a little each day…’ during her traumatic life.

I stopped at the mill ‘hidden in the folds of the Alps of the Moon, where the sun sets from the jewel red skies behind misted blue peaks.’ Anna’s mother once lived in a mill, and she explains ‘…the old building in ruins, crumbling into nothing seems to mirror what I am leaning of Mamma’s past.’ The Mill is ‘fragile’ and is a symbol of lost history and lost dreams that could be rekindled by the new generation.  Sitting on the steps to read the letters and diaries, I sensed the ‘breeze that dances on the river’.  Listening to the ‘sound of the river and distant sheep bells’, I could feel the loneliness of Ines. I am sure I heard the voices of the German soldiers who would have bathed there, and the whispers of the POWs and partisans hidden in the mountains.

I was completely spellbound by the characters and the clever structure of this novel.  ‘Tuscan Roots’ is a beautifully written novel examining cultural differences, the impact of war and the risks that ordinary people will take.  I was intrigued by the details of post war Britain, but wanted to stay in Italy. The contrast between the two settings and cultures reinforces Ines’ emotional landscape.  The patchwork of history and the present are sewn together effortlessly with Angela’s distinctive prose.  How much do we really understand about our grandparents and parents’ experiences?  Such a poignant message is presented:

‘We should not bury our memories, even if they are painful, even if mistakes were made in those times, which causes us anguish…we must learn from them.’

I discovered Anna’s history, trusted her observations and understood her pain.  I was very fond of the vulnerable, innocent Ines who demonstrated incredible bravery. The descriptions of the setting rooted me to the novel, and made me understand how it bound Ines to her homeland.  I pondered the way that a landscape can remain untouched throughout the generations but people leave clues about the place’s history.  The author examines how war changes circumstances and the simple things that we take for granted.  I was in awe of the people who made sacrifices for others during the war, in Italy. The romance of the setting presents the reader with the hope of love.  The romance in the novel is wonderful, natural and tender. Angela’s writing style is captivating.

The food prepared by the locals, in the Italian Apennines, transcends time and bridges the gap between the generations.  I enjoyed ‘the stuffed zucchini flowers, little squares of crostini topped with spicy tomatoes, liver pate and a creamy relish made from dandelion flowers, roasted bay leaves topped with ovals of melted cheese.’  Food is prepared to celebrate feasts, to welcome people into the home, to celebrate family occasions and to woo.

This novel evokes the senses and leaves the reader firmly fixed in Tuscany.  Not the tourist’s Italy, but rural, down to earth Italy – ‘this landscape feels lived in’, and the author breathes life into ‘the ghosts from the past’.  The story of the POW and partisans provide another dimension to this story, and I was impressed with how this was skilfully woven into the story.

Read Tuscan Roots, and you will not want to leave the romantic beauty of ‘indigo blue mountains’, or the ruins of Il Mulino (The Mill).  You will be impressed with the bravery of the Italian community during the war, and you will not want to leave the blossoming romance. I highly recommend this book!

 

Please see all my reviews at Books in Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

 

 

 

 

 

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

Please see all my reviews at Books In Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.