Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: February 7th 2012 by NAL TradeBut 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.
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.