Although this novel opens with a horrifying image, it is not filled with violence. Instead it is a braided narrative about two women, mother and daughter, and they ways in which they did (or didn’t) find love in their lives.

Ines Santini is 19 when she travels to England to take up a new life with her English fiancé just after the end of World War II. In a tragedy that hit so many young women, who were unfortunate enough to live in the early 20th century when their men were involved in two truly horrible wars, that destroyed their personalities, Ines finds out that the playful young man she fell in love with the year before has vanished, to be replaced by a monster.

Her daughter Anna is 33 years old when Ines dies, leaving her a box-load of memories in the shape of papers & diaries mostly written in Italian.  Anna, who is feeling stuck both with her latest boyfriend and her life in general in England, decides to travel to Rofelle in Tuscany to see the village where her mother came from.

Although the blurb to this novel speaks breathlessly about “shocking secrets”, and “a heartbreaking betrayal,” I must say that what happened next to Anna, once she arrived in Tuscany, was entirely predictable, involving both romance & family secrets.  I was able to see this “secret” coming long before it arrived. And as for the heartbreaking betrayal, that involved a member of the community of Rofelle during the Second World War, not someone who was an intimate of either woman. This is not to say that what happened wasn’t horrible. But it wasn’t quite as heartbreaking as the blurb makes out.

So this is a quiet novel, with one misleadingly violent scene tacked onto the front for effect.

Nevertheless, I found myself unable to go to bed until I’d finished it, because whatever flaws this novel might have (such as a near-constant shuffling of tense from present to past to present again, which I found particularly distracting) author Angela Petch created compelling characters. Four Stars. #thetuscansecret #angelapetch