Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle

In 1937 Freddie (English), Isabella (Italian) and Oskar (a German Jew) become friends at an art school in Florence where they are taught by the dictatorial but magus-like Maestro and his sinister fascist assistant Fosco. When war arrives Freddie returns to England to become the pilot of a Lancaster bomber. Oskar, now a dancer, has moved to Paris where he escapes the 1942 roundup of Jews and arrives in Italy with his young daughter Esme. Isabella remains in Florence where she continues to paint. Until she is called upon by Maestro to forge an old master painting, apparently at the behest of the F├╝hrer himself, and as a result is seen as a Nazi collaborator by her neighbours.
The murderous skies over Germany and a war-torn Italy in the grip of Nazi occupation provide the setting for this novel about the love of a separated husband and his wife and the love of a man for his young daughter. Freddie and Oskar both hope to find their way back to Florence. But Florence’s heritage of preserving the identity and continuity of the past has never before been so under threat.

This was an impassioned story of love and brutality, told from multiple points of view over a span of several years, before and during WW II.
Isabella and Freddie had barely begun their life together when war separated them.
What most struck a chord with me was the character Oskar, and his love for his daughter Esme. How do you teach a child so young that the "bad people" want to hurt you just because you are Jewish? To hide who you are for your own safety but to not give up hope. There was so much ugliness, and  desperation but Esme never gave up hope because of Oskar.
This was a thought provoking tale of the cruelty of war and I can't count the number of times my heart was in my throat and tears were in my eyes. 5 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

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