Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Blog Tour: The Girl from Venice by Siobhan Daiko


When Charlotte's beloved grandmother dies, she takes on the duty of clearing out her home where she finds several unopened letters from an address in Venice. Charlotte's mother is distant but she was very close to her grandmother, and she wants to find out where her grandmother came from. She is aware that her grandmother was Italian, but that is all she knows. Her grandmother refused to talk about anything in her previous life. Charlotte therefore decides to follow the clues and heads to Venice.

Lidia de Angelis and her father live in Venice. He is a doctor and Lidia is studying to follow in his footsteps. When Lidia is excluded from university because she is Jewish, and her closest friends decide to leave, her father still doesn't believe that they are in any danger. When he is arrested Lidia goes into hiding, staying with a farming family and assuming a new identity.

Now known as Elena, she lives and works with the family, until she catches the eye of a blackshirt. Determined to protect her Elena is moved into the partisan encampment on the local mountain. With her medical skills and her excellent English she quickly becomes an integral part of the partisan organisation. 

The author takes very familiar dual timeline story elements - a family member finding old letters/photos/etc and then tracks them back to their secret life. What elevates this particular take is the setting which is in Venice and the nearby region of Veneto. The tragic events that are portrayed in the book are based on true events and the author doesn't hold back. There is no whitewashing of the events, particularly the events later in the book which are so vividly and graphically portrayed.

Generally one aspect of a dual timeline is stronger than the other. For me, that is usually the historical aspect, and that was true of this book. I liked Charlotte's story, enjoyed her connecting with some of the people who knew her grandmother and helped her unravel the hidden story. I also didn't mind the relationships that developed over the course of the book, although there was a bit of insta-love and good fortune.

Despite the tragic events portrayed, this was still a very quick read. I was able to finish it in a couple of hours while I was on a train trip to the country.

Venice is calling me at the moment. Over the last weekend I have watched three shows all about spending time in Venice and then I read this book. I have warned my husband already that we might want to start thinking about a trip to Venice next time we go to Europe, whenever that might happen. I would be keen to find some of the memorials that are mentioned, particularly the memorial to the Shoah in the Venetian Ghetto 

This isn't my first book by this author. However, the previous book was set in Hong Kong, so it is interesting to see the author moving between these two settings. Her next book is once again set in Italy, this time in Portofino. I definitely plan to read her next books, regardless of whether they are set in European or Asian WWII theatres of war.

This read counts from the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host. Nice to have a read to link up this month!

Be sure to check out other stops on the blog tour

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy.

About the book

The Girl from Venice


Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini’s laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice, she must flee the city to save her life.

Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh German reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent patriotic activities threaten to tear them apart.

Decades later

While sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.

Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots, There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.

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About the author

Siobhan Daiko writes powerful and sweeping historical fiction set in Italy during the second World War, with strong women at its heart. She now lives near Venice, having been a teacher in Wales for many years.

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