Review: The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

The Berkley Publishing Group, (Penguin Group (USA) LLC)

Berkley Trade Paperback, On-sale: September 2, 2014

Description (from the author’s website)

Written in dazzling prose and set against the rich backdrop of World War II Italy, Garden of Letters captures the hope, suspense, and romance of an uncertain era, in an epic intertwining story of first love, great tragedy, and spectacular bravery.

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 that Angelo thought was lost to him forever.

My Review (4 Stars: Liked it a lot!)

I quickly found myself engrossed in The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman.  The setting: Italy at the time of the German Occupation (WWII, 1943).  Cello prodigy, Elodie Bertolotti becomes involved with the organization of the Italian Resistance.  This is essentially a love story propelled by tumultuous times.

Just as there is an intense rhythm to Elodie’s playing, there seems to be a rhythm in the writing throughout the book.  In the Author’s Note and Acknowledgments, Richaman says:

“For most of my career, I’ve woven themes of painting and art into my novels.  This time, though, I wanted to write about another form of art: music.  Not only did I want to write about how a musician experiences the world, but I also wanted to explore a more musical element – how we as human beings are able to communicate without the use of words.”

This novel easily transports the reader to a different space and time.

Note: Questions for Discussion are included in the book.

About the author (from the author’s website)

Alyson Richman is the author of: The Mask Carver’s Son, The Rhythm of Memory(formerly published as Swedish Tango), The Last Van Gogh and The Lost Wife. Her books have received both national and international critical acclaim and have been translated into fifteen languages. The Last Van Gogh was nominated as a Book Sense Notable Pick in 2006 and The Lost Wife was nominated as one of the best books of 2012 by the Jewish Journal of Books. A graduate of Wellesley College and a former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, she currently lives with her husband and children in Long Island, New York.  Her fourth novel, The Lost Wife, was The 2012 Long Island Reads Selection and is now a national bestseller with over 100,000 books in print.  Her next novel, The Garden of Letters, about a messenger for the Italian Resistance who sends coded messages through her music, will be published by Berkley/Penguin in September 2014.

Note: Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book  free from the publisher, The Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Group (USA).  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.  


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