I will admit to being a fan of the lighthearted Her Royal Spyness mystery series by author Rhys Bowen. The novels are easy reading and somewhat quirky. And I won’t hesitate to be intrigued by any novel that takes place in Italy, particularly Tuscany. So The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen, caught my eye immediately.
Towards the end of World War II, British pilot Hugo Langley is shot down by the Germans, but survives the crash of his airplane by parachuting into the grounds of an abandoned monastery just outside of a German-occupied Italian village in the heart of Tuscany. He would have died except that he was discovered by a young Italian woman named Sofia Bartoli as she gathers food for her starving family. She secretly bandages his wounds and keeps him fed, risking her life and the lives of her family. Days pass, and in the easy manner of many novels, love ensues. When the village is liberated, the British army takes Langley back to Great Britain to heal from his accident. Rumor has it that Sofia is seen driving away with a German officer. So, with great sadness, he puts Sofia in the past, and eventually he marries and has a daughter.
Fast forward to contemporary times, and his daughter Joanna, who has never been close to her father, returns to bury him following his death. As she is going through his things, she stumbles upon a letter he wrote to a mysterious woman named Sofia. It is clear that he loved her very much. What’s more, he talks in his letter about “their golden child” being safe.
What? Joanna knows nothing about a love affair prior to her mother, or a sibling. So, in the way of many novels, she puts her life on hold and travels to the Tuscan village to try and discover her father’s secrets. Perhaps the mysterious Sofia is still alive.
The Tuscan Child is not the Great American Novel. The plot is familiar and the characters are somewhat one-dimensional. But what makes The Tuscan Child a book to be read is the imageries of the countryside of Tuscan Italy, and the mouthwatering discriptions of the food. It is simply a book that nearly DEMANDS a glass of wine and a plate of spaghetti while being read.
Lovers of All Things Italian: This is a novel for you.