We return again to the picturesque countryside of Tuscany and are delightfully drawn into the busy lives of happily married Anna and Francesco Starnucci.
Life with four demanding children leaves the couple with little time for each other. Fatigued and lethargic, Anna is worried that something is seriously wrong with her health. Always putting the needs of her children and husband first, Anna finally decides it’s time for some self-care if she’s going to be around for her family.
Francesco works with their son Davide on his school project, having no idea of the impending impact the researching of that school assignment will have on his family. Learning about the difficulties and hardships of life in the early 1900’s opens the door to Davide’s curiosity, and he longs to know more about his bis-nonno, Giuseppe.
Plagued by school bullies and feeling deserted, Davide decides to run away. Spending the night in what he thinks is an abandoned hut, he is startled awake the next morning by the elderly Giselda Chiozzi. Davide is enchanted by Giselda and finds her wizened and quiet way, easy to talk to. The two quickly become kindred spirits and she promises to help him learn about the history of his descendants.
1917. Francesco’s grandfather, Giuseppe, is sent away to study – a rarely bestowed honour in a small village. Learning comes easy to him and he decides to be a teacher. However, a traumatizing encounter causes Giuseppe to give up his education and return home, but he finds no solace there. Running away from his family to seek a life of adventure, he joins in the tradition of generations of farmers, embarking on their yearly treks from high in the campagne to deliver livestock to the lowlands. This famous ‘transumanza’, was gruelling work. Up before dawn, with little rest, the men and boys traveled on foot and were away from their families for months at a time. Giuseppe goes from boy to man, and to his grave with a deep secret.
Travelling seamlessly between the Starnucci family’s past and present, Angela Petch delivers another astounding story. From the genuinely engaging characters, the brilliant research and true-life material, to the superlative portrayal of life in early 1900s Italy, and the detailed depiction of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, A Tuscan Memory is more than an incredible read. It is a reader’s escape. It is ancestral time-travel. It is a virtual-reading experience of the senses.
Long after the print image of the words have faded, A Tuscan Memory will lodge itself in the reader’s mind like the memory of a long-time family friend.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the read of Angela Petch’s, A Tuscan Memory.
Opinions expressed are my own.