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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Villa Triste, by Lucretia Grindle {Review and Giveaway x 2}

I know it's only January but I'm fairly certain that Villa Triste, by Lucretia Grindle is going to be one of my (very!) top favorite reads in 2013.

This book has been around for a few years, actually (having been published by a different publisher) but has been picked up by Grand Central Publishing and re-released. One of my greatest pet-peeves these days is how much dribble is put out by publishers. It does my heart a world of good to see a compelling story, that has clearly been researched and worked over, re-presented to the reading public.

Artfully told and hauntingly beautiful, Villa Triste tells the fictional story of two sisters, Isabella and Caterina Cammaccio. They live in Florence with their family during World War II. The story begins on September 8, 1943, the day that Italy surrendered to the Allies. Caterina was being fitted for her wedding dress when the announcement was made. Soon afterwards Hitler launched Operation Axis and invaded the northern half of Italy, trying to keep the Allies from gaining control of the area.

The Cammaccio family's world is turned upside down as distrust grows between friends and family alike. Random arrests are being made by the Gestapo and no one knows who to trust. Many Italians tried to avoid trouble during this period of time, but many more were not content to let Germany invade and destroy. Over 200,000 Italians joined what has now become known as the Italian Resistance. They fought anonymously, organized in cell groups, to weaken the German position. Of these 200,000 Italians, about fifty-five thousand were women.

Villa Triste is a piece of historical fiction that tells us about the Italian Resistance through the eyes of the sisters, Isabella and Caterina. This book is more than just historical fiction, however. It flits between 1943-1945 and 2006 where several of the newly decorated men of the Resistance are found murdered. Who is murdering them? Why? Alessandro Pallioti, a senior policeman and detective, becomes intrigued by the past and we flip back and forth from the 1940's to the present by reading Caterina's diary of events. History unfolds, with Grindle allowing facts to slowly seep out in a manner which keeps the reader guessing as to who individuals are, what became of some of the characters, and who among them had motive for murder.

Given the fact that this book is roughly 640 pages long, Grindle has plenty of time to develop her characters. Each one is complex in their own way and it is interesting learning more about them through Caterina's diary, and the memory of those who lived during the war who Detective Pallioti interviews. Grindle also has a wonderful amount of time to describe campaigns of those in GAP - Gruppi di azione patriottica - one of the partisan groups who focused their energy on acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and the one in which the Cammaccio family finds themselves involved with. The book feels delightful full of extraordinary people and situations. I really thought it was marvelously told. I enjoyed it so much I would have happily read another 200+ pages worth. I was riveted to it (finishing it in about 4 days) and sorry to see it end.

Conservative reader alert:

Note about language: The Lord's name is taken in vain about three times. I recall thinking once or twice that there a foul word, but considering the circumstances that the characters were facing, I didn't find them terribly out of place or used in such a way as to be obnoxious. My feathers were never very rumpled and I was never jarred out of the story.

Note about sex scenes: There is one. BUT! There's a reason for it. (If I told you the reason, I'd be offering a spoiler and I'm trying to avoid that.) If there ever has to be one in a book, the author should always handle it in the manner which Lucretia Grindle did. How's that, you ask? I didn't even know it had happened on first glance! There was one sentence which was not at all a tip off for me in the moment. I read on and one of the characters then referenced this subject (vaguely) and I quickly jumped back to the scene in question wondering how on earth I missed it! I could have hugged Grindle for making her point without fanfare. Beautifully done!!! You know what happened and why, but you don't know unless you really stop and think about it. Because there is not a long descriptive passage, you can note that it happened and move on.

Also, at the beginning of the book there is also reference to some pornography. It is not described in any way as to give me a mental picture of what was being seen. Beyond the first encounter with it, it does not make a follow-up appearance. In fact, I really thought that should have been left out all together but was at least glad that portion of the storyline was not further developed.

With those words of caution attached, I still have to recommend this book. It was a crazy, amazing story that set me researching the Italian Resistence online for myself for about an hour after I was done reading. (I was trying to relieve the book, see?) Loved the characters and loved the way the mystery unfolded. I'd be perfectly content and happy to read a dozen more books just like this one.

Furthermore, I love the fact that I have been authorized to host a giveaway for TWO copies of this book. Would you care to win? Simply leave a comment below, including a valid e-mail address for me to contact you at should your name be selected as one of the winners. This contest is open to U.S. Residents only.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNERS, (as selected by random.org), ARE #2 - JENNIFER and #23 - LISA S.! CONGRATS, LADIES!

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing (over and over again!) for shooting a copy of this book my direction. I think it's safe to say that this will be a re-read for me. I sincerely enjoyed it! Thank you also for their generosity in providing two copies for two of my readers!

37 comments:

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Well, how can I NOT want to read this? Sign me up!

hopeistheword (at) gmail (dot) com

Jennifer said...

Wow, this sounds like exactly the kind of book I need to read. I love historical fiction, and I love the World War II setting. Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

transformedgeneration[at]hotmail[dot]com

Shonya said...

Ooooh, putting this on my want to read list--you had me with your first sentence. I get so desperate for well-written fiction! Thanks for sharing when you find one to rave about.

Heather VanTimmeren said...

This sounds really good, and I'm always interested in WWII stories.

histtheo1 at yahoo dot com

Audrey said...

This sounds really interesting. I think you had me at "Italy" and "World War II."

justaudrey(at)live(dot)com

Melinda said...

Sounds like a good book. I will have to get a copy of it if I don't win this giveaway. :)

melindabordaATaolDOTcom

angie said...

Historical fiction..count me in! It is the only way I retain historical facts.
angiechadwell@yahoo.com

Alison said...

Any time you say a book is one of your favorites, I just have to read it. :)

Annette {This Simple Home} said...

Historical fiction AND a mystery!!!! Well-written! (Eeek a bit to 640 pages, but I have conquered more...) A new author to me!! Definitely! I appreciate your notices, but it sounds like Grindle did a fabulous job keeping it real...and clean.

thissimplemom at gmail dot com

Annette {This Simple Home} said...

Thanks for sharing this on FB,too!

Katie said...

Wow, this sounds absolutely lovely! Can't wait to read it!

schroederkatie[at]comcast[dot]net

Cassandra said...

I want to read it! I love historical fiction!

Jessica B. said...

I'd love to win this!
jesslburke@hotmail.com

Beth said...

I love historical fiction & this books sounds really interesting! I'd love to be able to read it :)
jandbstabley(at)gmail(dot)com

Beth said...

This sounds like a great read and from I time period I really enjoy reading about. bstarr1030 (at) yahoo (dot) com

obclhorn said...

Our library doesn't have it, so I must enter here....

kfaulk at gmail

Shonya said...

Saw it on fb, so couldn't resist adding another entry. Sounds like a great "escape" kind of book! :)

BerlinerinPoet said...

Pick me! heatherliz.carrillo@gmail.com
Actually I just read the first few sentences of this post and immediately put it on my TBR list. Anything that gets that sort of praise, gets my attention.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

This does sound interesting.

Drivel has unfortunately been a fact of writing and publishing for forever. One of the reasons I gravitate toward older books is that most of the chaff has been culled by time. For modern books, fortunately, I know a few serious readers like you that can highlight a good one.

Joan said...

I love reading (accurate, well-researched) historical fiction! Will be adding this to my wishlist. Have you read the Secret of the Rose series by Michael Phillips? Sounds similar, although my recollection might be fuzzy, i haven't read them since high school. Jrstoller1 at live dot com

shostagirl said...

This one sounds lovely. Sign me up!

shostagirl at gmail dot com

Lisa Spence said...

Count me in! :)

Lisa Spence said...

And I clicked over from Facebook ;)

Andrea G said...

You mentioned this book in another recent post and I immediately knew this was a book for me!! I'd love to read it!!

agreer65 at yahoo dot com

Beckie B. said...

Sounds like a great story. Thanks for the giveaway. msudawgtooATcomsouthDOTnet

Janna said...

You've sold it to me! jannarebekah@aol.com

Anita Yancey said...

This book sounds like a great read. I love the time period it is set in. Please enter me. Thanks!

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Nancy said...

Love a good mystery. Thanks for the chance to win.

nanze55(at)hotmail(dot)com

traveler said...

Thanks for this intriguing novel giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

What a great review which captivated my interest. thanks so much. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

Kate Fuller said...

I'd love to win this book!
kmfuller94(at)gmail(dot)com

Tore said...

Thanks for the giveaway. Please enter me. Tore923@aol.com

Sue said...

I like historical fiction. This sounds good. suew930@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I do believe I'd enjoy reading this book! marijotaverne @ clearwire . net

Stephanie said...

I LOVE good historical fiction!! And I'll be needing something to read while nursing the baby in a few months.

stephaniesmommybrain@gmail.com

Rainbow said...

Thank you Amy! Our public libraries do not carry this title & I have not read much about Italy recently so thank you!

texasrainbow2006@yahoo.com

Alicia said...

You've sold me! I'd love to get a copy of this book.

mamabear28cubs(at)gmail(dot)com

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