My enormous thanks to Sarah Hardy at Books on the Bright Side publicity for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations of The Italian Girls by Debbie Rix. It’s a privilege to help start off the tour today by sharing my review.
The Italian Girls
The sun hung low in the sky, casting pink light all over the city. A faint breeze blew over the rooftops, as flocks of starlings swirled above her, swooping and diving in unison. It seemed unimaginable that, even now, German soldiers were marching along the streets below. It was time, she decided, for direct action. It was time to fight back.
Each morning Livia Moretti makes her way from an apartment overlooking Florence’s famous Duomo to a nearby café, where she drinks espresso and reads the newspaper. To the crowds of tourists who pass by, snapping selfies, nothing about Livia will be memorable. She is simply an old lady. They walk on without knowing the part she played in ensuring the future of this beautiful city. And to Livia now, those dark days feel very far away too.
But today, when she opens the paper, she sees a name she has not heard for a long time. A name that will bring memories flooding back of Nazi troops marching through the city and the dangers she faced as a young woman, carrying out secret missions for the resistance.
A siren of the silver screen, Isabella cultivated all the right connections to ensure her rise to stardom. But when Rome falls to the Nazis, Isabella is suddenly faced with the choice between protecting herself, and all she has worked for, or sacrificing everything to save the man she loves.
As the war rages across Europe, a terrible misunderstanding causes the fates of Isabella and Livia to become forever intertwined. And each woman must decide what they’re willing to risk, to protect the ones they hold dear from a brutal enemy.
Inspired by the incredible true stories of two women in wartime Italy, this is a heart-wrenching and unforgettable tale of love, resistance, betrayal and hope. Fans of Kate Furnivall, Fiona Valpy and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped by this sweeping Second World War novel.
My Review of The Italian Girls
Isabella and Livia’s lives are inextricably linked.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Italian Girls because it is a sweeping, historical tale with credible, vibrant characters written by Debbie Rix with panache and authenticity.
I confess that I’m rather more hazy about Italy’s role in WW2 than I should be and what I so enjoyed about The Italian Girls was the level of historical detail and accuracy that truly brought the narrative to life. Here is a story that gives the reader a real insight into the lives of ordinary people like Livia and her family as well as the more glamorous aspects pertaining to Isabella, as Debbie Rix skilfully illustrates how everyone was affected by events and had a role to play. I found Isabella more difficult to empathise with and yet it was she who had my greatest sympathy in the closing pages of the novel. I found myself so drawn in to her story that my views and feelings were altered by my reading.
I think what is so powerful about The Italian Girls is that whilst there are Counts and officers, lawyers and doctors, housewives and students, each character, no matter how fleeting or important, feels like someone who could have existed. Several times I found myself wondering how I might have behaved had I found myself in their circumstances. This extra layer of interest was fascinating. I love a book that makes me question my own values and potential in the way The Italian Girls does.
I thoroughly appreciated the quality of the writing too. Whilst I’m not usually a fan of dual narratives, I thought the balance between Livia and Isabella, Florence and Rome was extremely well achieved so that the book flowed perfectly. The poetic nature of some of the descriptions and Debbie Rix’s ability to suggest some of the more cruel elements rather than giving all the gory details thoroughly appealed to my reader taste and I found the plot both captivating and exciting. There’s an intriguing sense of menace as well as hope as both Livia and Isabella strive to come to terms with the changes in their lives that I found captivating.
I found the themes really engaging. Obviously war is at the forefront, driving the narrative, but its the exploration of loyalty and betrayal, trust and fear, love and passion, friends and family that makes The Italian Girls such a brilliant book. I was filled with admiration for Livia and her father particularly.
I haven’t read Debbie Rix before and I rather think I have been missing out if The Italian Girls is indicative of her atmospheric and engaging writing. I really, really enjoyed this book and recommend it most highly.
About Debbie Rix
Debbie Rix has had a long career in journalism, including working as a presenter for the BBC. Her first novel, The Girl with Emerald Eyes was set around the building of the tower of Pisa and she has since released Daughters of the Silk Road and The Silk Weaver’s Wife. Debbie writes heartbreaking historical novels about love, tragedy and secrets.
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