Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen (author), Jonathan Keeble (narrator), Katy Sobey (narrator)

Audible Studios, February 2018

Hugo Langley, English airman, son and heir of a baronet, is shot down over Italy in 1944. Sofia Bartoli, young mother, and wife of a soldier fighting in North Africa, finds him, and hides him in the ruins of a monastery bombed by the allies after the Germans had occupied it and turned it into a military strong point.

Thirty years later, Joanna Langley returns to her father's home to arrange his funeral and settle his estate, such as it is. Most of it was lost to death duties when Hugo returned home at the end of the war, his father dead, the estate occupied by British troops for most of the war, and his wife and son departed for America. Joanna is the daughter of his second marriage, and her mother died when she was eleven.

Among his effects, she finds a letter that's a startling revelation. It's from her father to Sofia, returned unopened, marked "addressee unknown at this address." In it, Hugo had mentioned hiding "our beautiful boy" where only Sofia would find him.

Joanna has a half brother in America. Does she have another half brother in Italy? She decides she has to know.

In alternating sections, we get Hugo's story, narrated by Keeble, and Joanna's story, narrated by Sobey. The danger of Hugo's sojourn in Italy is obvious; he's in German-occupied Italy, while the Germans are losing, retreating, and not inclined to burden themselves with prisoners if they find him. Nor would the partisans of Sofia's and neighboring villages be any more inclined to take risks to help a wounded British pilot, who would represent another risk of the Germans identifying those resisting them.

The dangers Joanna faces, thirty years later, are more hidden, less apparent, but quite real. There are still people alive in the village of San Salvatore who have reason to conceal the truth of what happened.

It's a fascinating story, about aspects of the Second World War that don't always get much attention.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.