The Tuscan Child

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Mar 2018

Member Reviews

I chose to read The Tuscan Child book because I lived in Italy for three years and visited Tuscany frequently. Also I’d heard this book had an art historical bent to it. The book is a bit of a genre-blend with a mystery, a bit of a travelogue, and a romance to boot. It is for cozy mystery type readers, those enjoying foreign locales, as well as those liking genre-bending fiction. 

Ms. Bowen’s prose is clear and easy to read. She has chosen to tell this story in the point-of-view of a British lord, Hugo Langley, serving as a World War II fight pilot in Italy in the 1940s alternating with that of his daughter, Joanna Langley, a woman in her late twenties studying for the bar in the 1970s and dealing with her own traumas.  She avoid visiting him, seeing only the “old and bitter, remote and resigned, [father] who had long ago given up on the world.” He, in turn, doesn’t agree with certain life decisions she has made.

The first chapter starts as the pilot’s plane is spiraling out of control and about to crash. It is exciting and definitely shows the POV of a rational man making tough decisions under extreme stress. That excitement fades with the next two chapters written in the daughter’s POV as she returns home at his death. These chapters are slow, but eventually Joanna finds artifacts that help her see her father for the man he had once been. Her own life in tatters, these items propel her to Italy, to the fictitious hamlet of San Salvatore, where the majority of the story is set, to try to piece together her father’s history. 

Bowen also handles scenery well, capturing the atmosphere of Tuscany with its heat, its vegetables, orchards, even its cooking. She sometimes lingers a bit too long on the beauty of the area, however. For example: “Down below shops were open to the street: a butcher or delicatessen with piles of salami in the window, a shoe shop, a wine merchant with casks outside. Impossibly narrow alleys led off from that central street, some hung with laundry, others with casks of wine outside doorways. And everywhere there were bright window boxes full of geraniums…” On and on for well over a page.

Despite its slow start after an exciting opening, I enjoyed reading The Tuscan Child. Bowen masterfully teases the reader with several minor mysteries in one POV that are somewhat solved later, sometimes in another POV, all leading up to the big mystery. For example, Joanna has her own tragedies, and these are carefully withheld by Bowen and revealed somewhat later in the book. Her father’s mysteries gradually come to light as well as the identity of the “Tuscan Child.” The romantic ending is a bit too tidy.
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book in return for my honest opinion.

This was a wonderful book.  It takes place in a northern Italy. in a small fictional town, it was so descriptive, I could almost smell the wildflowers and fields.  I love dual timeline stories; this one is told by our main characters, Hugo, in in the 1940s and his daughter, Joanna, in the 1970s.  A wonderful story of love, loss and the choices we make in life.  I felt that it was hard to get into for the first few chapters, but once there, I was committed to finding out how the stories are connected. After finishing this book I was left with a warm feeling and the urge to visit Italy.
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The Tuscan Child takes place in two different timelines. One is in Italy towards the end of WWII & the other is in the 1970’s. It’s told from two perspectives. The first is from a wounded English soldier, Ugo, who is hiding out from Germans in a small Tuscan village & being helped by a young local woman. The second is from Ugo’s daughter’s perspective. She travels back to that Tuscan village, after her father’s passing, in search of answers. What happened to the mystery Tuscan woman who helped save her father’s life? Did they have a secret baby? Do the villagers know more than they’re letting on? 

I really enjoyed how this story was told. I don’t like to give too much away in my reviews. However, I will say that the love story aspect is sweet with a slight twist at the end. At times, it was predictable but it doesn’t take away from the story as a whole. Thank you NetGalley, Rhys Bowen & Lake Union Publishing for the ARC!
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The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Brief Summary: Joanna Langley discovers her father’s secret past as a British World War II pilot who parachuted into German occupy Tuscany. He was hidden and cared for by an Italian beauty named Sofia Bartoli. In going through his belongings after his death, she finds a love letter from him to Sofia and embarks on a journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s past.

Highlights:  This book is a fast pace an easy read that grabs my attention from the beginning and didn’t let me go for three days until I finished it. I love when novels are written with alternating narrators in the past and present and I enjoyed both perspectives equally. I love how the storylines came together.  I enjoyed the colorful details of the luscious Italian food and beautiful Tuscan scenery. It made me want to visit Italy. 

Explanation of Rating: 4/5 This book has a compelling story line but I don’t know that I was particularly inspired by Sofia’s courage nor was there anything particularly unique about the story. I don’t know that it’s going to stay with me. I wish that Sofia would’ve been one of the narrators. I will say there were also times where foreshadowing was anti-climatic. I also wish we would’ve known what became of Sofia.

I do recommend this book for fans of historical fiction. There’s also love stories that develop for fans of romantic fiction. Book clubs may also enjoy this though I don’t know that there are a ton of provocative issues that warrant discussion.

Thank you to Net Galley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review
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I loved the Italian setting. It provided a different backdrop for a WWII story. Interesting to read about
the German occupation of Italy and the community attitudes of the time - including the divided
loyalties.
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The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen is a lovely historical fiction split between 1944 Tuscany and 1973 England and Tuscany. Expertly woven, the story intertwines the two eras into a story which might have been the history of anyone, exploring the impact of one’s actions on the situation of progeny. 
In this story, Bowen relates the adventures of an English airman who is forced to abandon his mortally damaged bomber over the skies of Italy only to be found by a local woman who at the risk of her own life and that of her son, husband’s grandmother, and the entire village, decides to help the Englishman hide.  A strong relationship blooms between them. For a time Bowen leaves the reader wondering if the relationship survived the war and his return to England.

Some 30 years later, the Englishman dies.  His daughter, Joanna, who believes herself to be his only child, returns home to learn she has an older half-brother she has never met and possibly another sibling living in the Tuscan countryside.  

Uncovering a part of her father’s life she never knew existed, Joanna is driven to learn more of her father’s time in Italy during the war. She makes her way to Italy only to become entangled in a “new family”, a murder, and an entirely new life while discovering a father she never really knew.

Bowen is a master story-teller and certainly does not disappoint in “The Tuscan Child.” Her characters are well developed, storyline well thought out, situations believable.  The story flows with an ease which engages the reader, while allowing for periods away.
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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley.

This book covers two time periods: WWII in Italy and thirty years later. We follow the effects of the war on the people in the towns, as well as, the airman who managed to survive his plane being shot down. You read about the contrast between folks who tried to help the Allies and shared what few supplies they had and those who secretly supported the Nazis. Even after 30 years, the consequences in the war-torn areas are evident. The author does an excellent job of capturing the raw emotions brought about by the dangers and deprivations of war.

Thirty years later, the pilot's daughter visits this small town in Italy where her father was shot down. She is greeted with locals who want to help her learn more about her dad and others who are openly hostile. 

I really enjoyed following the families in the two time periods
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The Tuscan Child is absolutely another richly well done story by Rhys Bowen. She makes the 26 simple letters of the alphabet into page after page of stories that I cannot help but keep turning the page for. I don't recap stories in my reviews but I do need to say this:  do yourself a favor and please read The Tuscan Child. The pages will almost turn themselves :)
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I love this era in a book. It is a great book with such wonderful characters and pulls you in from the start. You won’t want to put it down. It’s a very well written book and my first by this author. I loved it.
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This book sucks you in and doesn't let you go. I love WWII novels and this is up there with some of the best ones I've read. It would definitely give book clubs plenty to discuss.
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Past actions coloring today's possibilities.

Fascinating story that has a young English woman tracing the mystery of her father's plight in the Tuscan countryside after his plane was shot down during World War 11.
Finding hints about a possible sibling when packing up her dead father's belongings, Joanna Langley travels to the village of San Salvatore in Tuscany in the hopes of learning more.
What she finds are old secrets and mysteries, and a glimpse into the heart of a father she barely knew.  A murdered local feeds into the intrigue. The story of Hugo Langley's time in Tuscany is told through Joanna's father's voice. These time slips between the past of 1944 and the present heightening the tension. And yet there is a strong thread of connection, fed by a woman who links the two, Sofia Bartoli.
Certainly the opening chapters paint two very different sides of the same man. The Hugo we come to know of 1944 and Joanna's memories of him in 1973 are world apart.
An enjoyable and very plausible read!

A NetGalley ARC
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Thx to  Netgalley, lake union publishing and Rhys Bowen for this ARC. I love this authors Molly Murphy series. I am a big fan of this author. . This is a stand  alone book which I simply loved as well. She writes about WWIi but not so much that it becomes a history lesson as in so many others who write on that subject. It was perfect, there is adventure, romance, and mystery. What’s not to love !?
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Lovely story of a woman uncovering secrets from her family's past. The story deftly switches back and forth between the 1940s and the 1970s. The setting in Tuscany totally satisfied my imagination with vivid imagery and striking characters. Fans of Rhys Bowen's other novels will not be disappointed.
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I chose to read this because I enjoy Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness series so much. This was a very different kettle of fish being set half in World War 2 and half in 1970's England and Tuscany. 

A big problem for any book when the author has chosen to write alternately in different time periods is if the two are not perfectly balanced in interest for the reader. In The Tuscan Child I was much more interested in Joanna than I was in Hugo which meant I put the book down and went off to do something else much more than I normally would!

Nevertheless this was still an enjoyable if predictable story. Tuscany sounded absolutely delightful and there was a lot of interesting information about food! Worth a read.
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I loved the intertwined stories of a young woman who hides a wounded WWII soldier in Italy and the grown daughter of the soldier who tries to uncover the mystery of her father's life. I definitely had trouble getting into this at first (the author's British tone lacks feeling sometimes), but overall, I was intrigued with the suspense of the story and was completely satisfied with the ending. I'd probably recommend this to someone who likes historical fiction.
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Rhys Bowen has captured me with a marvelous book from page one. I loved this novel sweeping between two eras in Italy. 
She is remarkable in her ability to form a well crafted story . 
All expertly researched placing the reader in Italy with the characters. 
This book is  giving two stories -the WWII experience of the main character's father in Italy and the 1970's daughter trying to find out more about his war experience and his love of his life. 
It is wonderfully done and quite engaging. I loved it and read it cover to cover. 
Thank you for the ARC which did not influence my review .
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The Tuscan Child is a book I read a few months ago that I had been wanting to write a full-length review for…and never got around to it. I still want to gush over it, however, so a mini review it is! Back in November, I FINALLY discovered Rhys after falling hard for a Christmas-themed mystery, The Ghost of Christmas Past. When I saw a standalone WWII novel available on netgalley, I couldn’t request it fast enough.

The Tuscan Child is a dual-era novel (SWOON) telling the tale of a woman in the early 1970s who returns home to her family’s once lavish country estate (since turned into a girls’ boarding school) upon the news of her father’s death. While cleaning out Sir Hugo’s belongings, Joanna discovers a small box, a box that holds a letter – written in Italian?? – along with several small artifacts. As she digs into the box’s contents, she learns much more about her father than he ever let on, his time during the war, his stay in Italy, a woman and child (his?) he cared for. It’s clear to me that Rhys Bowen is no one hit wonder – I loved this story and am eager to dive into more of her work! On a side note, while reading Laura Madeleine’s Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I couldn’t help but compare the two: foodies will delight in both of these stories. While Cherries is centered in southern France, The Tuscan Child features pages upon pages of mouth-watering descriptions of Italian dishes.
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In 1944 an English pilot is shot down over San Salvatore. Badly wounded, he seeks shelter in a bombed-out monastery. With the aid of a beautiful woman, he hides from the Germans. 30 years later, his daughter finds an unopened letter to the woman among her father's effects.

Determined to ferret out the truth, Joanna Langley goes to Tuscany to seek out anyone who can help her find the woman who helped her father, but everyone denies any knowledge of her father or the woman.

Bit by bit she unravels the mystery and the final shocking conclusion. Along the way she finds healing for herself and love.
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The Tuscan Child marks my first experience reading one of Rhys Bowen’s adult novels even though she’s written many, primarily mysteries. However, when I was in middle and high school, I was a fan of the Sweet Dreams teenage romances and have fond memories of them, including the ones written by Bowen under her real name. 

Both foodies and anyone dreaming of a vacation in scenic Italy should be drawn to The Tuscan Child. It fits in with two historical fiction trends – multi-period novels about secrets from the past, and World War II – and its locale and plot twists add originality. 

In 1973, following some personal trauma, Joanna Langley returns home to Surrey after getting notified of her father’s unexpected death. Sir Hugo Langley had been a baronet, but financial hardship had forced him to sell the family estate, Langley Hall, years ago. Now it’s a girls’ boarding school, which Joanna attended growing up; Sir Hugo had worked as the art master there while living with his wife and daughter in the gatekeeper’s lodge. A mystery unfolds when Joanna goes through her father’s effects and finds a love letter he wrote, in Italian, addressed to “Mia carissima Sofia” and referring to “their beautiful boy,” whose whereabouts he kept secret. The letter had been returned to sender. 

Joanna knows that Sir Hugo, a former RAF pilot, had flown WWII bombing missions and was injured after being shot down but never spoke about it. Needless to say, an unknown half-brother is quite a surprise. Joanna has little to go on but, determined to find him, she packs up and travels to Italy for answers. Her story alternates with Hugo’s nearly thirty years earlier, as he parachutes out of a damaged plane, conceals himself in crumbling monastery ruins near the Tuscan village of San Salvatore, and is aided by a young mother, Sofia, whose husband is missing in action. 

Bowen made feel I was there alongside Hugo—cold, feverish, and creatively devising sources of shelter and food—and Joanna, experiencing a sense of freedom in the sun-dappled Tuscan hills. Both father and daughter find themselves in life-threatening situations: he from the Germans, and she because soon after she arrives, she learns someone doesn’t want old secrets uncovered. 

The suspenseful aspects are counterbalanced by the mouthwatering recipes (Joanna’s landlady is a talented cook who wants to fatten her up so she'll find a husband) and depictions of the picturesque Tuscan countryside, with its rows of olive trees, rocky crags, and ocher-colored roofs. The Tuscan Child isn’t a mystery by genre; the plot is rather sedate at times. Still, Bowen’s deep roots in the genre are noticeable. I admired one plot twist, since I would have found it nearly impossible to predict. 

Despite some stereotypical personalities, I enjoyed spending time in San Salvatore and recommend the book to anyone who wants to “travel by novel.” 

(Published at Reading the Past)
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Set in two time lines, 1973 and 1944.  Flash back to Tuscany 1944, before his plane crashes and burns, Hugo Langley parachutes down in an open field, surrounded with olive trees.  In 1973 Joanna Langley, is called back to her home from London upon the death of her father.  She is the sole survivor of his estate, which is now a school for girls and even though her father was titled, there is nothing much left of his estate.  Except for a mysterious letter found among his belongings.  With nothing left to keep her there and with what little money was left to her, Joanna goes off to Italy to clear the mystery left by the letter.

I find it interesting to read a story divided by different decades, it's what keeps a book interesting.  There is always one story that takes over, that is more interesting.  This was not the case here, both kept me glued to the book.  What I find most true of today's novels is the used of dual timelines, as it seems the norm these days.  There are many readers who are not in favor of this method, for me it is enjoyable, especially in the historic genre.

This is a 4 star review and happily so.  Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a honest review.
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