The Garden of Angels
by David Hewson
Narrated by Richard Armitage
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Pub Date 28 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 05 Feb 2021
At his beloved Nonno Paolo's deathbed, fifteen-year-old Nico receives a gift that will change his life forever: a yellowing manuscript which tells the haunting, twisty tale of what really happened to his grandfather in Nazi-occupied Venice in 1943.
The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice's Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he's waited his whole life to share.
When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches - earning him a week's suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .
Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather's life: when Paolo's support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city's underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can't stop reading - but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.
A Note From the Publisher
About the Author
David Hewson is a former journalist with The Times, the Sunday Times and the Independent. He is the author of more than twenty-five novels including his Rome-based Nic Costa series which has been published in fifteen languages. He has also written three acclaimed adaptations of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
@david_hewson | davidhewson.com/blog/
About the Narrator
Richard Armitage is a television, theatre, and voice actor. He first received recognition with his leading role as John Thornton in the television programme North & South, and recently starred in the hit Netflix drama The Stranger.
"Gripping and powerful, THE GARDEN OF ANGELS richly evokes the tension and threat of Nazi-occupied Venice. A moving and important novel" TESS GERRITSEN, NYT bestselling author
"Vivid and compelling. A richly wrought thriller, a love story and a warning that spans decades. I was thinking about this book for days after I'd closed it" SARAH PINBOROUGH, NYT and Sunday Times bestselling author
“I’m a huge fan of David’s work—in The Garden of Angels, not only do we explore his characters over three generations of life changing circumstances, but also the city of Venice equally ‘in extremis.’ It awakens the senses and opens the heart." RICHARD ARMITAGE
|DURATION||12 Hours, 40 Minutes|
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 12 members
I was granted complimentary access to the audio ARC of The Garden of Angels by David Hewson through the publisher, W.F. Howes Ltd, via NetGalley is exchange for an honest review. Thank you to all involved in giving me this opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
The Garden of Angels is a story split between the present and the past. In the present, Nico Uccello has been suspended from school for a week for watching classmates attack a Jewish newcomer. When he confesses this to his dying grandfather, his grandfather gives him his own story, written down in parts, to read and keep secret until he is finished. In the past (grandfather Paolo's memoir), young Paolo lives in Nazi-occupied Italy and finds himself entangled in the underground Jewish resistance.
The former history student in me jumped at the chance to review this title! 20th Century wartime history was my focus, but I didn't get much from the Italian perspective in my studies. Even though this is fiction, it's clearly steeped in historical fact. That alone made this an enjoyable read to me. Add in the suspense aspect of not knowing how Paolo's story will resolve or what Nico will do with this new knowledge and I couldn't put it down!
The majority of this book set in the past reads like a novelized autobiography of the sort my history professors would have assigned to undergrads to understand the mindset of the people we were studying, like when we read Hilary's The First and the Last. The portions set in the present beautifully illustrate a teenage boy's breakthrough from complacently racist and passive to informed, righteous, and ready to stand up for the rights of others. I was particularly struck by the way the elders in his life responded when he started asking for other memories to go alongside his grandfather's and how not all of them were as willing. He didn't realize what sort of pain and fear he was asking them to uncover, and their sharp responses made him realize how little respect he was giving them and their past.
Overall the story this book tells is beautifully heartbreaking, or heartbreakingly beautiful. It has a thriller element, and though it isn't overly fast-paced, there are no dull moments. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history, historical fiction, or heartfelt life lesson stories.
Richard Armitage's narration is excellent! He does such a great job making sure all major characters sound distinctly different, and handles accents and Italian names well. I appreciate that he hasn't tried to pitch up female voices to the point of sounding comical, as some male narrators tend to do. His own lower voice is so pleasant to listen to, I wouldn't want any squeaky falsetto interruptions to the buttery flow of everything else. I will absolutely look for Richard Armitage listed as the narrator when browsing titles in the future.
The Garden of Angels by David Hewson and narrated by Richard Armitage
Fifteen year old Nico, his father, and his grandfather reside in Palazzo Colombina, on Venice's Grand Canal. As Nico's grandfather, Nonno Paolo, is dying he presents Nico with five manuscripts of his life that he has been writing just for Nico's eyes. He wants Nico to understand the past and to understand himself. He sees something in Nico that he saw in himself and he wants Nico to learn from the story he has to tell. Paolo's story takes us back to 1943, when Venice was occupied by the Nazis and the war is on the doorsteps of the citizens. Eighteen year old Paolo's parents have been killed by a bombing raid and Paolo and his family's dearest employee have one last weaving job to complete.
Paolo's family is Italian and are considered newcomers to the area despite having lived there for so long. They have hidden away in their weaving business for years and eventually Paolo realizes that they have hidden away because of him, because he's different from other boys and that difference has been noticed by more than just his family. People stare and talk so his parents took Paolo out of school and taught him themselves while training him to continue the work of their business.
One day, Paolo makes a decision that changes his life even more than the war and his parents death has changed it. He agrees to hide a Jewish brother and sister who are wanted because they are Jewish and for their fight against the Nazis. Meeting these two, and the doctor and priest that are helping so many of the persecuted in the city, awakens in Paulo a heightened awareness of the war, the injustice, and his feelings towards individuals and himself, that he hadn't faced at this point.
The story that Paolo writes to his grandson is a bloody, treacherous nightmare of our past and after each of the five chapters we go back to Nico and his thoughts and reactions to the past events. He loves his Nonno Paola and wants to understand what he is trying to teach him but he's confused by so much of what he learns. The heroism of the past and also the brutality of the past should never be forgotten and that is one of the lessons that Paolo wants to impart to his grandson.
The narration of the story by Richard Armitage is fantastic, and along with the synopsis of the book, what drew me to this story. The brutality that is inflicted on those in Venice mirrors the rest of the world's horror during this time but what I remember is a doctor and a priest who put others before themselves. Paolo ever forgets these people and his housemates during that time and he wants his grandson to hold this story close to his heart, learn from it, and use it in his future.
Thank you to W.F. Howes Ltd and NetGalley for this ARC.
My thanks to W.F. Howes Ltd. for a review copy via NetGalley of the unabridged audiobook edition of ‘The Garden of Angels’ by David Hewson. It is narrated by Richard Armitage and has a running time of 13 hours, 22 minutes at 1x speed.
Hewson’s latest stand-alone novel is set in Venice. In the summer of 1999, fifteen-year-old Nico’s beloved grandfather, Paolo, is dying. The family are renowned Italian fabric weavers, the House of Uccello.
When Nico fails to act when a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, he is suspended for a week. During this period Nono Paolo presents Nico with a typed, yellowing manuscript, describing it as a history lesson. However, he cautions Nico to keep what he reads secret from his father.
This proved a powerful tale linked to the persecution of the Jewish community in Venice as well as the activities of the Venetian underground resistance. The narrative moves between 1999 and what happened to his grandfather in Nazi-occupied Venice in 1943. The last section shifts to 2019 as Nico returns to Venice and uncovers the final secrets of his family.
I have been an avid reader of Hewson’s novels for years and while this is different to his crime fiction, it still contains those qualities that I admire in his writing: close attention to detail in terms of settings and historical aspects, strong characterisations, and a compelling story.
In terms of the audiobook, Richard Armitage is my favourite male narrator and his performance and distinctive, rich voice brought this story and its characters vividly to life.
Overall, a powerful work of historical fiction that moved me deeply and highlighted aspects of WWII in Italy that I was previously unaware of. In his Author’s Note Hewson advises that although its characters are fictional, the novel took some inspiration from events following the German occupation of Venice.
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