ISBN-13: 9780451237088
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: February 2012
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

I love reading stories which have a war setting; don't get me wrong, war stories are never a joy to read but they are part of history and they allow us to get a glimpse of the war through the eyes of the characters, even if they are fictional ones.

The Golden Hour is a story about a 17-year-old Italian girl, Giovanna Bellini's journey during the Nazi occupation in Tuscany during the 1940s and how the war affected her throughout and into her adulthood. Being the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, her life should be carefree and filled with happiness but all was shattered when the war broke and their lands are being occupied by German officers. As you are aware, Italy armistice with the Allies and this resulting in the disarming of Italian forces and seizing the military control of Italian areas.

While Giovanna helps at the local Catholic academy tutoring refugee children, she is attracted by one particular German officer named Klaus; he is married and has a young son and though Giovanna likes him, yet at the same time she is also torn by guilt and a sense of patriotism as she feels their acquaintance is wrong to begin with. On the other end, Giovanna's brother, Giorgio, left home to join the resistance. His parents never knew of his whereabouts, thinking something must have happened to him during the war although they are still hopeful of his return. Truth be told, he is very much alive and Giovanna is secretly helping him to smuggle food and medical supplies for the partisans.

It is also through Giorgio that Giovanna meets Mario, an injured partisan who is Jewish and as she nurses Mario back to health, she couldn't help but to fall in love with him and his courageous spirit as well. At that time, she is unaware of the situation where the Jewish stand and even after she knew of the danger of being acquainted with a Jew, she stand by her decision of helping and loving him despite her parents' objection. However, the real battle lies in the ruthless Nazis and Giovanna has to confront her demons as she faces Klaus once again.

Filled with wonderful characterisations and a rich setting of the wartime, author Margaret Wurtele has weaved a captivating, and an unforgettable story about love of all kinds (couples, family as well as friends) and the acts of heroism in all forms. Giovanna is a wonderful and a likeable reader; you couldn't help but to sympathize with her for all the difficulties she encounters both in her personal life as well as the hardship during the wartime. Mario is another likeable character to me as he is brave yet humble at the same time.

As I have not read a war story with an Italian setting before The Golden Hour, I was glad to read this book based from the Italian's perspective. It has definitely made me understand more about the resistance forces; and not to mention what the partisans did are selfless and they are willing to sacrifice themselves in saving their country.

Although The Golden Hour is about the Nazi occupation, I would also like to view this as somewhat of a coming-of-age story, as I could see how Giovanna has grown from a naïve young girl to be a mature lady as the story progress. A great debut I would say, and I would highly recommend this book to readers who love historical with a little romance theme in it.

And, I have a guest post from author Margaret Wurtele tomorrow so do keep a look out for it!
5 Responses
  1. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    I don't think I've read anything from the Italian perspective either. But like you, I do love war stories. I'm going to investigate this one a little further!

  2. The Bookworm Says:

    This sounds great and I am glad I'll be reading it soon.
    Wonderful review Mel.

  3. Anna Says:

    Glad to see you liked this one as much as I did!

  4. Although I get tired of so many books about the Nazi occupation -- This one has my interest.

  5. Such a beautiful cover!! I can't read too many WWII books back to back--especially ones with the Holocaust as the subject--but I haven't read a book set during the Nazi occupation of Italy. Sounds like a really beautiful book!

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