The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle

the villa triste“There is one thing that I do find extraordinary and it never ceases to amaze me. That even in this day and age, in any day and age, that people always insist on believing their heroes are men” (p351)

In this story, although fiction, the real hero is a woman. The story is (mainly) about two sisters, Caterina and Isabella Cammacio. It is 1943 Florence, Italy and Caterina is getting ready to marry her boyfriend, a naval officer Lodovico when the country is occupied by the Nazi’s. Isabella joins The Resistance as a partisan fighter and also enlists the help of Caterina, a nurse, to help them save families.

There are two storylines, that of 1943 and of the present day 2006 where a policeman, Alessandro Pallioti has to oversee a murder investigation. The murder victim was a 87 year old partisan hero who was brutally murdered:  Fed a huge amount of salt and shot once, in the back of his head. Pallioti knows that a story like this could  cause havoc in the media, a partisan hero murdered in the safety of his own home, especially after it emerges that another 80 something year old partisan hero was murdered in exactly the same way.

Amongst the victim’s belongings he finds a diary, the very same one that Isabella gave Caterina as a wedding gift. In the diary Caterina tells the story about the start of the war, what she had done to help The Resistance, amongst other detail of her and Isabella’s life. Palliotti meets a woman, Dr Eleanor Sachs who believes one of the partisan heroes is her grandfather and he works with her to find out why these two men were killed. He also enlist the help of one of the founders of the “Remember the Fallen” foundation.  The Villa Triste is a place where partisans or the resistance members (or anyone else) were taken to be imprisoned and tortured. That is where Isabella and Caterina were taken after they were caught (and obviously betrayed by some members of their group), but they escaped The Villa Triste…

In the diary Palliotti learns Caterina’s story and in the end it helps him, along with the help of Eleanor Sachs, to find out who the murderer was of the three partisan “heroes” and who betrayed Isabella and the other members of their group.

I have been excited about reading it since March this year and I must say I absolutely loved this novel!  It was an engaging read, the story line and characters were interesting and there were unexpected turn of events too, which was a definitely plus for me (the ‘ah ha moments’). There were moments of sadness, an emotion that historical fiction about war always tend to bring out in me. The story is a beautiful tale of hope, bravery and perseverance.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoy historical fiction and even to those who doesn’t. It is now amongst my favourite historical fiction novels,  along with The Shadow of the Wind, Winter in Madrid and How Angels Die.