First Sentence: He was going to die. That was quite obvious.
Joanna Langley returns to the place which was once the family estate in order to plan her father's funeral. In going through her father's things, she comes across an unopened letter addressed to Sophia. All Joanna knew of her father's past is that he had been shot down over Tuscany during the war and left with a permanent limp. With the revelation of the letter, Joanna decides to travel to Tuscany in order to learn more about her father, and her own past.
There is nothing more effective than a powerful opening to get one's attention. Bowen's opening is all that and more. It is visual, terrifying, and demands one keep reading. That it then segues from 1944 to 1975 is even more compelling, both due to the transition in time and ambiance, as well as introducing the protagonist, Joanna Langley, establishing both the family's, and Joanna's, history, before switching back to Hugo, Italy, and the war.
Bowen conveys emotion in a very British manner—"To realize that one has nobody in the world—this is a sobering thought."—and contrasts that with the Italian sentiment—"Don't look so sad,' she said, touching my cheek. 'All is well. We are tested and we survive, and life will be good again.'" She also does a good job of conveying Joanna's shock at learning an unexpected bit of news, and at building one's curiosity about what is to come. Bowen also makes an interesting comparison between Hugo's life with a title, large house, and staff; and Sophia's life with a husband she loved which beautifully illustrates what in life are true riches.
The sense of place is wonderfully done. By the time Joanna reaches Italy, one is ready to pack and join her there, with Paola being the person with whom one would wish to stay. A word of warning; one should not read this when hungry.
This is not a perfect book. There are portents and large, very convenient coincidences. Although there is a mystery, it seems secondary to romance. For those who enjoy history, Bowen does provide an interesting look at the impact of WWII on a small village in Italy. That is something one doesn't often find.
"The Tuscan Child" is a lovely, rather idealistic story. However, it is also a pleasant read with a happy ending, and there's nothing wrong with that.
THE TUSCAN CHILD (HistMys-Hugo Langley/Joanna Langley-England/Italy-1944/1975) – G+
Bowen, Rhys - StandaloneLake Union Publishing – Feb 2018