The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS By Alyson Richman

Publisher:  Berkeley Trade
Release Date:  9/2/2014
Pages:  384
Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:  THE NEW NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE LOST WIFE

Set against the rich backdrop of World War II Italy, Garden of Letters  captures the hope, suspense, and romance of an uncertain era, in an epic intertwining story of first love, great tragedy, and spectacular bravery.


Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own, haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie’s arrival has the power to awaken a sense of hope and joy that Angelo thought was lost to him forever.

Wanda's Thoughts:  My emotions were strongly engaged in this deeply touching story. The author certainly has a style of her own, writing in a lyrical way, bringing to life this dark period in our history. You’ll become entangled in sadness throughout, with the atrocities and horrors of the war. The brutality of the Nazis was unbelievable.  

The author cleverly weaves together different time periods in Italy, bringing the characters stories and lives together.  

Elodie, a young Italian girl in her early twenties, was destined to become a great cellist. But outside the world is blackening with the encroaching war. It had been more than twenty years that Italians had been living under Fascism, but in the past five, it had become unbearable. Mussolini’s insatiability for more power overtook him, and his alliance with Hitler was betraying the men, women, and children of Italy. Italy begins preparing for a German invasion.  

The brutality of Fascism becomes even more evident to Elodie when her father is beaten beyond recognition. Elodie and her friend, Lena, become involved with Italy’s early Resistance. The partisans in the mountains were relying on them to get their messages to their contacts in the city. Elodie has two necessary things to complete this mission - her fantastic memory, and her musical talent. And the story unfolds, as Elodie, a cello student from Verona, becomes a staffetta for the Resistance when she carries hidden codes for the Resistance within her music.  

There was much depth and complexity to the characters. The author certainly brought these people to life in this multi-layered storyline, and captured life in Italy during WWII in vivid detail. The Garden of Letters is an amazing read and definitely a favorite for 2014. My rating is 5 + stars.



Ayson Richman is the author of "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and the national bestseller, "The Lost Wife." Her books have been published in over fifteen languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children. Her novel, "The Garden of Letters" will be published on September 2, 2014 by Berkley/Penguin.
She is currently working on a novel novel about the 19th century courtesan, Marthe de Florian and her Paris apartment which remained untouched for over seventy years.