Wednesday, September 18, 2019

World at War: The Tuscan Child

The Tuscan Child. Rhys Bowen. 2018. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: He was going to die, that was quite obvious.

Premise/plot: Joanna Langley is on a quest to discover/uncover family secrets in this historical mystery by Rhys Bowen. The novel has two narrators: Hugo Langley in 1944/1945 and Joanna Langley in 1973. The book is set in England and Italy. After her father’s death (in 1973), Joanna discovers that there were many things in her father’s past that she was clueless about. She has an older half-brother, for example. Who knew that her father had been married twice?! Why did he never mention his ex-wife or. His son?! Who knew that he’d been shot down over Italy?! He never talked about his time there. But he did send a love letter to an Italian woman after the war. (It was returned unopened.) The letter mentions a child?! Could she have another half-brother?! She decides that she has to go to Tuscany to find out the truth for herself.

My thoughts: As often as I review novels with dual narratives you’d think I seek them out. Not so! I was drawn to this one because of the pilot of World War II aspect.

I will start with the good: I read it in one day. I cared enough about the unfolding mystery to keep reading one chapter after another.

Now for the bad...I was ultimately disappointed. I felt the title was tricksy. The build up is that she is on a quest to find a half-brother. She wants to find him and make a connection—reach out. If she can’t find him then she at least wants to find more truths—more clues indicating the kind of man her father was. The man she knew was distant, reserved, uninvolved, uncaring.

His narrative reveals a more passionate man who is in desperate conditions. He fears for his life; he is dependent on a super beautiful woman to keep him supplied with food and medicine. He is hiding out in an abandoned monastery. They share conversations and time. Could this be love?

How did this young man become that kind of father?!

I thought that Joanna’s narrative had too many mini-mysteries and sub-plots to work well. I felt like the book couldn’t make up its mind as to genre. Is it a drama? A mystery? A romance? Should it end with a couple embracing and pledging to love each other forever and ever? Should it end in a family reunion?

My favorite character was a friend she made in Tuscany, Paola.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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