Monday, December 17, 2012

The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele

Set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.

But when her brother joins the Resistance, he asks Giovanna to hide a badly wounded fighter who is Jewish. As she nurses him back to health, she falls helplessly in love with the brave and humble Marco, who comes from as ancient and noble an Italian family as she does. They pledge their love, and then must fight a real battle against the Nazis who become more desperate and cruel as the Allies close in on Europe...


Giovanna Bellini returns to her ancestral home to be by her father's side during his last moments. While taking care of him she starts to remember their lives during WWII.
I liked this first image of Giovanna, there's immediately a strength that oozes through the pages. There's no way I couldn't be intrigued by this woman.

When we go back in time, Giovanna has 17 years old. She's a spoiled young lady who comes from an aristocratic background. Initially, she doesn't quite understand what is unfolding around her, the war, the presence of the German Nazis in her family home. All of this seems so confusing to her and she'll make some mistakes. Quickly everything starts to change...

Through each page, we see Giovanna grow and transform herself in the woman I saw in the first pages of this book. I didn't feel connected to this young Giovanna right away (she got a lot on my nerves) and there were some moments where I actually didn't like her at all. But she always stayed true to herself and did whatever was needed to save those she loved.

The secondary characters were very intriguing as well, but I cannot really talk about it in detail without reveling some spoilers. Let's just say that The Golden Hour is not only about Giovanna, but the story of many families who lost so much during this period. Despite the dark hours, you can feel that everyone, and especially Giovanna, never lose hope.

There's one aspect of this novel that I really appreciated, the German Nazis or the Italian Fascists are portrayed like real human beings, there's no clich├ęs. We learn more about the Fascist party, it's origins, and even how Mussolini rose to power and gained control of Italy.

I didn't had any troubles getting into the story at all and the descriptions of this sunny, rich and exuberant Italy broken by war were beautifully written.

Grade: 4/5 stars