I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.
‘He insisted they take a boat, an Alilaguna, so that her first view of Venice would be from the water. She asked whether that was wise, there was a low drizzle floating out of the early dusk at Marco Polo airport, and he was already shivering as they walked to the jetty.’
2014 Clare and her father travel to Venice from New Zealand. She is fleeing a broken marriage, he is in failing health and wants to return one last time to the place where, as a young man, he spent happy years as a rugby player and coach. While exploring Venice, Clare discovers there is more to her father s motives for returning than she realised and time may be running out for him to put old demons to rest.
1942 Joe and Harry, two Kiwi POWs in Italy, manage to escape their captors, largely due to the help of a sympathetic Italian family who shelter them on their farm. Soon they are fighting alongside the partisans in the mountains, but both men have formed a bond with Donatella, the daughter of the family, a bond that will have dramatic repercussions decades later.
What I thought:
I came into this one not really knowing anything but interested in the idea. Although I knew that New Zealand must have taken part in both World Wars it’s not something I ever really thought about. It seems so far away from everywhere and separate from the rest of the world that the idea of it being involved in the war the same as the rest of the world isn’t something I’d ever really thought about. Not that I’d ever had much concern to ever think about it. Although WWII is almost the entirety of modern history that I was taught, we mostly looked at the British effort as well as the different causes and Nazi Germany. I don’t remember New Zealand ever being mentioned, which is a pity. Even for something as big as a world wide the history taught is still insular. But I digress. The point is I didn’t know any of the context that this book in intrenched in.
I was a bit concerned about the lack of knowledge that I had going into this, I’m not normally one for historical novels, but found that I had nothing to be worried about. All the bits of history that was going on ‘live’ was explained and while I’m sure that I missed loads of references it wasn’t so obvious that I felt I was missing out or that I was being told off for not knowing what was going on.
I enjoyed the different plot lines that went on and how they started completely separate before slowing starting to come together. Although it starts with just the two, 1942 and 2014 a third one is soon added on 1973 which acts as a bridge between the two. The moments where the two started to converge even more were exciting because of how they were done. Just like the history wasn’t thrown in your face neither were these relationships, the clues were subtle and when I worked out who Clare’s father was I was shocked and took a second to pull myself out of the book, swear and mentally re-orientate myself before diving straight back in.
The part of the story set in WWII seems horrifyingly real at times, with a reminder of the smells and the sounds as much as the sight of what is going on and what normal people and soldiers had to go through. I love how Joe and Harry are from the same part of town and have a fairly similar background and yet have completely different reactions to the war. one throws himself into it and the idea of ‘fighting evil’ is very clear and black and white while the other just wants it all to stop and would be happy to be called a coward if it meant he could go home.
The stuff with Clare did feel a little bit forced at times but it soon pulled itself back on track. Personally I found her storyline the weakest and the least interesting but as the bulk of the story was the 1942 and 1972 storylines it didn’t matter. And it wasn’t so weak that I wanted to skip them or was bored, it just didn’t hold my attention as much as the others did. Plus she wanted to leave Venice as soon as they got there. My sister and I went to Venice in January (at the beginning of Carnivale) and I could have easily spent much longer just walking down the windy streets. So she had a lot of ground to make up whilst the other characters all fell in love with the different parts of Italy they were in and reminded me just how much I love it and need to keep visiting it.
Why I read it:
As stated in my disclaimer, I was sent a free copy of ‘The Antipodeans’ by Eye and Lightening books. Receiving book post is fun especially as so far they have been books that I wouldn’t normally pick up let alone put on the TBR.
I’m really glad I was sent this as I really enjoyed it. I adore Venice and Italy in general. It was also nice to read something that wasn’t YA as it meant it was able to move at a slower pace and just enjoy the journey as well as the destination. The different plotline intermingle really well and it was an interesting look into a part of WWII that I knew nothing about. it’s also something I am definitely now interested in and I think I’ll probably do a bit of research into the part New Zealand and Australia played in the war.
Would I recommend: Yes. Its not for everyone but it’s a great human story with lots of heart.
Popsugar: Set in a country that fascinates you (Italy), about death/grief, about or involving a sport (rugby), published in 2018
Thanks again to Lightening books for sending me a copy. I can’t wait to go to New Zealand later in the year and this book arrived just as I was finalising the dates for my holiday.
Please let me know in the comments if you like my review and if it’s made you think about picking up a copy. Also let me know if you’ve read it and disagree with my words.
P.S the next post is about ‘We Come Apart’ by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan