Cover Image: The Secret Messenger

The Secret Messenger

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Overall an enjoyable WW2 story set in an unusual location (1940s Venice, under occupation)
The story centres around Stella, by day she is a typist in the Reich office, but by night she is a messenger for the Italian resistance and Types of content for an underground newsletter on her trusty typewriter.
The book switches between Stella’s story in the 1940s, and the story of her granddaughter Luisa who finds the old typewriter in the attic also no with some photographs, and wants to learn more ...

I’m not sure that the dual timeline approach was really necessary for this story – it would’ve been just as powerful, possibly more so, if it had just been Stella’s story. There was evidence of some good research  which I always appreciate in a historical novel, but some sections did feel a bit long winded and overall it was ok, not great.
Was this review helpful?
German occupation.  Well written story. It made me think, reflect and enjoyed it. I would say if you feel like reading that kind of thing - don't hesitate.
Was this review helpful?
An excellent read. The first book I have read from this talented author. It certainly made me stop and think about the war and German occupation. Wonderfully writing. Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Stella is a member of the Italian resistance living in Venice in WW2, by day she works as a translator for the Reich but at every opportunity she is writing a newsletter for the resistance and passing on a any information she can glean from her day job.  As the distinctive fault on her typewriter gets noticed a reward is offered for any information........ will she be revealed and her life put in more danger and face the death penalty? In the present day Luisa is clearing the attic after the death of her mother and finds a battered old typewriter and a photo from Venice which makes her determined to find out more of the history of her Italian side of the family.

A great book working well in the two timelines although I much preferred Stella's story and couldn't wait to get back to her chapters, definitely recommended
Was this review helpful?
I love historical fiction, and time split stories, so was interested to read this book.

I felt I was transported to Venice and there were enough plot twists to keep me wanting to read just a few more chapters each time I picked this up.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed The Secret Messenger!  A historical fiction story about WWII Venice following Luisa in the present day who finds a typewriter of her grandmother's and travels to Venice to find out more.  

I found this to be such an engaging story that I couldn't put down.  I loved that the story is told in present-day and the past.  Luisa's story was a bit less interesting for me than Stella's story, but overall, it was a wonderful book!

I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free.  I am leaving my review voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
A really interesting read. I was fascinated about the story this book had to tell of the role of women in the resistance during World War Two. I was equally fascinated by learning more about the war in venice. I really enjoyed the story of the main character and following it through to the end unraveling the mystery along with her granddaughter
Was this review helpful?
What a great story, very well told. Stella is a young woman in occupied Venice. Her brother is fighting in the resistance, she worries about her parents, and her love of writing is helping the cause. The picture of life under these difficult circumstances and how much the written word gave people hope, is painted so well. The love story and grand daughters quest wraps it all up together to be a wonderful read. Really liked her first book, this is even better!
Was this review helpful?
A lovely little read of the Italian resistance, raced through it to find out the lovely ending. Full of twists and easy to read I recommend
Was this review helpful?
A story covering two time lines.  A woman from the present day finds some papers and an old typewriter, following her mothers death. and goes in of the owner.. Another good historical fiction story.
Was this review helpful?
The Secret Messenger by Mandy Robotham is a story of World War II in Venice. I have been reading a lot of books about the war recently, as it simply intrigues me and pulls at my heart, seeing the stories of what people survived. I simply can't imagine the courage it took for many of the things that people had to endure. This story focuses on Stella, a young lady who loves words and loves her home. Her popsa had raised her to believe in freedom and liberty and the fascism in her world tears her apart. She is determined to help put a stop to it. By day she works as a translator for the Reich and by night she types up the newspaper for the Resistance movement. She takes the things she learns during her day job and transfers them to Resistance Headquarters, while also delivering messages at different locations, all in an attempt to save her beloved home. The story is well written and actually follows two timelines: Stella's and that of her granddaughter over 70 years later as she tries to piece together her history. I truly enjoyed this book and it was interesting to read about yet another place the war tried, unsuccessfully, to destroy. I would definitely recommend this book. I received a free copy of this story from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this immensely, but for some reason, the review I wrote disappeared once I sent my review.  If you are interested in a WWII book dealing with the little known resistance active in Venice, this is the book for you.  I read it in two sittings.
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautiful book that was written very well. I really got invested in 
the characters from the beginning. The story takes place in Venice. I got
addicted to this story and could not leave it for long. I kept picking it up until it was
finished and I believe other readers that like Historical Fiction will too. This is a 
book I want for my collection. 

Thank you so much, Mandy Robotham, your Publisher, and NetGalley for giving me
the chance to read and review this great book!
Was this review helpful?
I love WWII historical fiction and have been recommending The Secret Messenger to all my histfic friends!
Was this review helpful?
Very detailed and very immersive atmosphere. This really transports you to a different time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
Was this review helpful?
Despite there being an influx of historical fiction set during WW2, I never tire of the era and enjoy reading the different locations and people the war affected. So I was excited at the prospect of reading this addition to the genre. Added to that, THE SECRET MESSENGER was a dual timeline story set between German-occupied Venice in the 1940s and modern day London and Bristol. I do love a dual timeline tale!

Venice 1944: Stella Jilani is a 27 year old proud Venetian, longing for the Venice of old. One that includes freedom from Nazi occupation and Italy's fascist dictator Mussolini. Ever since she was a young girl, Stella loved to write and as soon as she was old enough she gained a job on a newspaper as a journalist. But that came to an end when a story came her way about an incident where she was told by her editor to embellish the story in favour of the fascists. Stella wanted only to tell the truth but the truth was not what the paper wanted...they wanted propaganda that supported the fascist regime.

But Stella would not be swayed. She put her journalist experience to good use in the Venice Resistance Brigade writing for their underground newspaper. And she is soon given the position of a typist and translator for a high ranking Reich officer at Nazi High Command, where she secretes information she obtains in her position and passes it on to the members of the Resistance. As a secret messenger she walks a fine line each day relaying this information as well as trafficking essential supplies.

Throughout her journey is her beloved typewriter her grandfather gave her long before the war. On it, she produces information that is published in the forbidden underground newspaper. She also begins a tale of love which inadvertently makes it way into an edition, enthralling many Venetians alike, as they eagerly await the next installment. Even her colleague Cristain De Luca, Head Secretary to General Bruegal who she also works for, is intrigued by the story.

Cristian is a bit of a dark horse and Stella has trouble working him out. There are times she sees something of a sensitive side in him but at others he fixes her with a cold stare and she wonders if she had merely imagined it. But one thing is for sure, Stella must keep her secret life from Cristian for in this war you can trust no one. And yet, she cannot help but enjoy his company when they are away from Nazi High Command.

But then, Stella's life is threatened when the Nazi's search her apartment looking for her typewriter, after receiving information that she was the one responsible for the underground newspaper and the story that had captured Venetians. Breugal and Strauss have long been suspicious of her activities and when they find nothing in her apartment, she is then sacked from her position at Nazi Command, the newspaper disbanded and a warrant is issued for her arrest. Before she is captured, she receives paperwork entitling her to a travel pass which enables her to escape. However, she is confused as the pass is signed by Breugal just as her arrest warrant is. But Stella doesn't wait for explanations, hastily bidding her Venice goodbye as she makes her escape.

But her story does not end there...

London 2017: Luisa Belmont has recently lost her mother and is clearing out her vast home when she comes across an old typewriter in the attic. Having never seen it before, Luisa has no idea who it belongs to. So she decides to delve into the past to discover the story behind this piece of history. Along with the typewriter she also finds some old photos and some crumbling documents hidden away in a box and she wonders why her mother has kept this part of her heritage hidden away. The people in the photos are very obviously relatives as she recognises her mother in the features of the young woman though the photo was dated 1950...and her mother was born in 1953. She resolves that it must be her grandmother.

Luisa is aware that her mother and grandmother fell out some years before and hardly ever spoke. Her own mother was cold and distant and she pondered on whether the relationship with her own mother was then reflected in that which she later shared with her only daughter. Although she had shared half her life with her distant mother she felt that she didn't really know her...or much about their Italian heritage.

In the course of her delving into the past, Luisa discovers the story of her grandmother's life in Venice during WW2, her secrets, her sacrifices, her fears and ultimately, finding love.

I love historical fiction but it took me a while to find my way through this book and I felt it was very slow moving...not just at the beginning, but throughout much of the story.

THE SECRET MESSENGER had an intriguing premise...but for me, it fell a bit flat in its storytelling. Although I was intrigued by the story and was eager to find out what happened, I found the writing to be too descriptive with two of my pet peeves in books - 1) long chapters, and 2) incessant monologuing by Stella detailing just about everything that inadvertently puts me to sleep. I was disappointed because I thought the story had promise. I, did, however soldier on to finish the book...admittedly, skimming a lot of in-between monologuing that I could do without.

There was so much that didn't make sense to me as the author didn't bother to translate some of words, both in dialogue and Stella's own monologue. My Italian is very limited and it wasn't helped by the lack of translation in parts.

There was also not a lot of relative development in Luisa, despite her being Stella's granddaughter. The reader isn't given much of a chance to get to know Luisa as all she is doing is digging into the past and nothing else. She had no personality and lacked depth. Stella, on the other hand, featured far more than her granddaughter of the present day and yet she still didn't have a lot of development either. Basically all Stella did was monologue about work by day, resistance by night...day in, day out....with not much else in between.

There could have been so much more done with THE SECRET MESSENGER than was done making it simply drowning in the shadow of those far more interesting and intriguing books of a similar vein. I would far more recommend "My Name is Eva" by Suzanne Goldring, "The Secret Letter" by Debbie Rix, "A View Across the Rooftops" by Suzanne Kelman and "A Fight in Silence" by Melanie Metzenthin than THE SECRET MESSENGER. It had so much potential but just failed in the delivery. It actually put me to sleep on several occasions with Stella's endless monologuing.

Having said that, I am in the minority here as many others have thoroughly enjoyed it where I haven't. I was disappointed as I had high expectations for it that it just didn't live up to.

I would like to thank #MandyRobotham, #NetGalley and #AvonBooksUK for an ARC of #TheSecretMessenger in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I was looking forward to reading this book as I enjoyed the author’s book A Woman of War a lot. I was not disappointed. Stella is a compelling and unique character, a strong woman, working for the Italian resistance and as a typist for the Nazi’s. My heart was in my throat a lot of the time as I read, wondering if Stella would be caught and what terrible price she would pay. General Breugal of the Nazi’s is the perfect villain. He gave me the creeps. I also really enjoyed the parallel story set in 2017. Luisa uncovers family secrets when her seemingly cold and unloving mother dies. I enjoyed the way the stories gradually come together and the links between them are revealed.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a brilliant read and one that is perfect to escape for a few hours and loose yourself.
Characters that fall out of the pages of the book and make you fell apart of the story, the setting is lovely and captured well with words.
A great read. that I would highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
I like this book. I wasn't too fond of Luisa ( i just didn't fell her) but her grandmother's story was really good. It got gripping towards the end but didn't last very long but it was all good. Stella's character was great. 

i have read the other book the author has written it was also great . 

Thank you NetGalley !
Was this review helpful?
I loved Mandy Robothams first novel and couldn’t wait to read this one. I love books set in this time period. This one moved from Italy and London. I haven’t read many books set in WWII Italy and found this fascinating. Robotham has definitely done her research. Great character and  I flew through this book.
Was this review helpful?