ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Secret by Katharine Johnson + #Giveaway @kjohnsonwrites @rararesources #BlogTour
I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour for The Secret by Katharine Johnson today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour and for providing a copy of the book for review.
Love, Lies, and Betrayal in Wartime Italy.
Two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy share a secret that has devastating consequences.
Against a backdrop of fear, poverty and confusion during the Second World War, friendship is tested, and loyalties are divided until a chance encounter changes everything.
Their lives diverge when beautiful, daring Martina marries and moves into Villa Leonida, the most prestigious house in their Tuscan mountain village, while plain, studious Irena trains to be a teacher.
But neither marriage nor life at Villa Leonida are as Martina imagined. And as other people’s lives take on a new purpose, Irena finds herself left behind.
Decades later, a tragedy at the villa coincides with the discovery of an abandoned baby, whose identity threatens to re-open old wounds among the next generation.
I’m always drawn to books set in Italy as it’s a place I love. The Secret is set in 2018, briefly in 1992, and during WW2.
Carlo and Cass have just returned to the small Tuscan village of Carlo’s youth. He left to make his way in America many years ago but it’s time to come home. His mother, Irena, is still there but is losing her memory and Carlo wants to rescue those memories while he still can and so gives Irena a voice recorder. It enables Irena to somehow become free enough to tell the story of her youth with her best friend, Martina, a story that has been kept quiet for a long time. But that story is more tangled than Carlo could have guessed as we journey back with Irena to the early 1940s, to Mussolini’s Italy and to the secret of the title.
The Secret is the follow up to The Silence. I haven’t read The Silence and whilst The Secret works perfectly well as a standalone story, I did feel like I had missed a little bit of something from that first story. It didn’t matter too much though as there was more than enough going on in The Secret to keep me occupied.
I tore through this book. Italy then was a difficult place to live and the village suffers terribly. I really wanted to know what the secret was and I was shocked by it, although I was even more shocked by something that wasn’t actually the secret. Katharine Johnson has written quite an enthralling story here and I was very impressed by the way she managed to convey the sights, smells and sounds of Italy so well.
One thing that I would say is that I thought the current day story with Carlo and Cass, and their restaurant, felt a bit like it was there to facilitate the wartime story, rather than being a story in its own right. Overall though, it’s an excellent story of friendship and betrayal during a time of conflict.
Win 1 x Signed copy of The Secret and 1 x Signed Copy of The Silence (UK Only)
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Katharine Johnson likes writing about ordinary people who through a character flaw or bad decision find themselves in extraordinary situations. She’s a journalist living in Berkshire, England with her family and springy spaniel. When she’s not writing you’ll find her exploring cities, visiting old houses, playing netball, eating cake or restoring her house in Italy which is nothing like Villa Leonida.