Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini’s laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice in 1943, she must flee the city to save her life.
Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh German reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent patriotic activities threaten to tear them apart.
Decades later in London, while sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.
Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots. There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.
I chose this book because I was so impressed with Siobhan Daiko’s book The Orchid Tree, set in wartime Hong Kong. The Girl from Venice, about Lidia De Angelis, also describes a country under wartime occupation, this time Italy, but in dual time we also follow her grand-daughter Lotte as she tries to discover her grandmother’s previous life.
Although my father fought against the German army in Italy in 1944, I didn’t fully understand the bravery and suffering of the Italian partisans. Lidia, a Jewish medical student, had to flee Venice when her father was taken away. Staying in the countryside with kind strangers, she is soon endangered by a lecherous German soldier. She volunteers to join the partisans in the mountains, becoming an important part of the armed resistance. Keeping her Jewish roots secret she works as an interpreter between the Italians, the Canadians and an English soldier called David.
Meanwhile we get to know Lotte, a reluctant teacher spending her summer holiday near Venice, attempting to discover her grandmother’s past. It would seem an impossible task, but clues lead her to a 90-year-old lady who remembers Lidia. Helped by a brother and sister, Alessandro and Francesco, she learns of the courage and suffering which Lidia and her friends endured in 1944 and how she had ended up in England.
Despite some tragic scenes this moving story is well worth reading and is enriched by Lotte’s engagement with her heritage.
The Girl from Venice on Amazon UK
My review of The Orchid Tree by Siobhan Daiko
2 thoughts on “The Girl from Venice by Siobhan Daiko #amreading #BookReview”
I remember reading The Orchid Tree too. Good book.
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