Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele

Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: February 7th 2012 by NAL Trade
ISBN: 0451237080 (ISBN13: 9780451237088)
From the publisher:
In this stunning debut set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.  
But when her brother joins the Resistance, he asks Giovanna to hide a badly wounded fighter who is Jewish. As she nurses him back to health, she falls helplessly in love with the brave and humble Mario, who comes from as ancient and noble an Italian family as she does. They pledge their love, and then must fight a real battle against the Nazis who become more desperate and cruel as the Allies close in on them...

My thoughts:   I call this one WWII lite -  There are no gut-wrenching, heartbreaking concentration camp scenes, no in-your-face heinous acts of senseless cruelty but the presence of war is the backdrop for the main story - the coming of age  and eventual love story of Giovanna Bellini.
At seventeen years of age, I found Giovanna to be very naive and protected. At first, when the Germans occupied her little town, Giovanna thought they looked dashing in their uniforms. When Giovanna was caught in a budding flirtation with a German officer by her mentor, Sister Graziella, she was forced to do something else with her time other than work at the school where they shared space with the occupying Germans.  It was a little hard to believe Giovanna was so oblivious to the plight of the Jews. In short order, Giovanna had to grow up quickly, leaving behind foolish romantic notions with the enemy as the brutality of war shows it's ugly face.

She does decide she wants to do something to help the war effort and when her brother Giorgio seeks her help in feeding his little group of partisans, Giovanna does not hesitate to do what it takes to comply. Under cover of working for a local clinic and at great risk to her personal safety, Giovanna becomes very involved in helping the group. It's here that she meets Mario, a wounded partisan. In tending to him, Giovanna is forced to make some very difficult decisions. Of course, the two start to fall for each other.

" I sat still for a long time, watching Mario breathe. Who was this man for whom I had possibly just sacrifed a life, maybe two? I couldn't explain the urgency I had felt, the compulsion to rush to his aid, the magnetism that drew me then and that kept me now at his side, hanging on his every breath as if my own depended on it."

 Even though, this was predictable, Wurtele did a great job in developing their relationship and all the characters in general. They were very well fleshed out and managed to evoke numerous emotions in me. I was proud of Giovanna when she stood up to her father whose ideals differed greatly from her own. I couldn't stand her whiny, self-centered father. Her mother just made me want to shake her out of her apathy and tunnel vision. Wurtele also excelled at description; I felt I had been transported to Italy and set down in the midst of the action.

I think this would make a good book club selection as there are numerous issues that could make for some interesting discussions. A reader's guide is included at the end.  Even though this was a little different in tone and location from the WWII books I have read, I enjoyed it very much. 4****

For more about the author, please visit her website.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by NAL in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. Great review :)
    Oh her parents were horrid, but then it was war. They just tried to live

  2. I'm adding this to my list. I think it sounds like one I'd enjoy. Nice review, Kaye.

  3. I love well rounded characters and it sounds as if this was a really involving story. Though I have been sort of burnt out on WWII stories over the past couple of years, I am always on the lookout for something different and captivating, so this might be something for me to look for. Very nice review today!

  4. nice review.

    I'll have to remember it when I get to my WWII timeframe reading.

  5. This sounds good to me - I like that it's not too graphic.

  6. I really love that cover. And your review makes me wish I had a book club to talk about books like this with.

  7. that cover is beautiful, and the story sounds great. I'll suggest this one to my bookclub.

  8. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one and that it is devoid of some of that gut-wrenching emotional upheaval that I've experienced this year!! I was lucky enough to win a copy of this the other day and it arrived today!

  9. Am I shallow for preferring WWII lite? I just can't take too sad these days....

  10. You're right about it being "WWII lite," but I'm glad there was still some action and drama and tension to carry the story forward. She got the point across without it being too overwhelming, and I thought it worked. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!


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