Title: The Garden of Letters
Author: Alyson Richman
Publish Date: September 2, 2014 (Today!)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "Portofino, Italy, 1943. A
young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she
knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by
the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers.
She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In
desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the
cliffs of Portofino.
Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was
a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when
Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the
burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned
bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique
musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.
In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and
exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own,
haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie’s arrival has the power to
awaken a sense of hope and joy that Angelo thought was lost to him
My Two Cents:
"The Garden of Letters" opens with a quote from one of my very favorite books, The Little Prince." From that point on I thought that I was in for a good story. And I was definitely right about that! This book takes place during World War II in Italy. Elodie is a 19-year-old who gets involved up with the resistance movement. She knows that she's putting her life at risk however she is drawn to continuing to help the resistance based on both her political beliefs and her love for Luca, one of the resistance leaders. When Luca dies, Elodie knows that she needs to find a new place to stay safe. After a couple of run-ins with the Germans, she finally comes to Portofino where she is taken in by a kind man who has lost more than his share from the war already. This was a brilliant, sweeping book and will be a thrillfor any of my fellow historical fiction lovers.
The characters in this book were great. I especially loved Elodie. She goes from a cello prodigy to running messages for the Resistance. She is a very interesting character because she stands to lose a lot from her involvement with the Resistance; however, she's brave enough to put that aside and continue to be involved even if it means giving up some of her livelihoods like being able to play her beloved cello freely. I really thought that the author did a good job of making her feel like a real person with a lot of different facets. The secondary characters such as her parents, Luca, and Angelo were also really interesting and I loved reading about them.
One of the things that I really liked about this book was how the author chose not to tell the story in sequential order. That being said each section is clearly denoted as to when it took place which makes it very easy to follow along with the story. When the book opens, Elodie is being chosen from a crowd in Portofino. The subsequent chapters talk about how she came to be at Portofino, which is quite far away from Verona, where she lived before. I thought that this way of telling the story was especially effective in this case because you are pulled into the story by not having all of the pieces that you want at the very beginning. Richman really makes the reader get interested in figuring out how Elodie came to be in Portofino and why she is staying with Angelo. You also get to find out about some of Angelo's backstory, which was especially heartbreaking to me.
The historical detail in this book was fantastic. I really like the way the Richman was able to show what was going on in Italy at the time and really make the reader feel like they were there. I thought all of the detail about the Resistance Movement was especially interesting. This book has a lot of information about the ways that the Resistance was able to pass information around in order to hide it from the Germans. I haven't read a lot about the Resistance Movement in Italy, but I thought this was a really good introduction.
This marks the first book that I've ever read by Alyson Richman; however, this will definitely not be the last. I really enjoyed this entire book and was sad when it was over. I would absolutely love a sequel and definitely think that there's room to find out what happened to Angelo and Elodie and the rest of the characters.