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.

  • Great review- I love historical fiction too. It always makes me wish especially hard that the characters actually existed!

    • Thank you! Yes, I think that is what attracts me too, because although the characters (atleast most of them) are fictional, the events that are described had really happened and it is so sad. Some authors also knows just how to bring out an emotional reaction. No matter how many novels I read about war, the good ones always make me cry or feel sad, sometimes even disbelief. What these people had to endure!

  • I’m so glad you liked it! It came onto my radar around Readathon time, and I’m excited to hopefully run across a copy soon.

    • I hope you enjoy it when you get t read it!

  • Gosh this does sounds fascinating, I like the historical storyline aspect, the Italian background etc. I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much! it’s nice to have your expectations fulfilled after you’ve waited so long to read a particular book. 🙂

    • Thanks. I bought the book a month after I wrote that post in March, but only got to read it now. I’m so glad that I liked it!

  • Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    This sounds like something I could sink my teeth into! I love this time period SO much! Thanks for the lovely review 🙂

    • Thanks Jennifer. The same goes for me! For some reason, all the historical fiction I’ve read is about 1940’s time period. All the books I’ve mentioned in this post is about 1940’s war in either Spain, Italy or France 🙂

      I think next time I should read a historical fiction about the Tudors or something.

  • Historical fiction that involves a diary? I’m in!

    • I think that’s my favourite part – reading her diary she wrote during the war. Her thoughts, fears and courage…

  • I loved this book, it was my nr 1 in 2012. I loved the way it not only told a great story, but also made you think what you would do in similar circumstances.
    You can find my review here:

    Kind regards,

    • You see, now there’s another recommendation! I hope to read more from Lucretia Grindle! WIll pop over to your blog to read your thoughts 🙂

      • The lost daughter is her new book, and I liked that one as well. It also has a link with Italian history in the ’70, and the Red Brigades.

        Kind regards,

        • I know about that one, there is a short summary about it in the back of my book. Maybe I will read that one next!

  • I’ve had this one for a while but really knew nothing about it. It sounds really good!

    • I really enjoyed it. I hope you will read it, since you have it.

  • I love books like this with women as the central characters. There’s a lot of unsung female heroes about. After all, we’ve been keeping Life going for centuries while the men are off, bushwhacking around the Planet.


    • I think that’s the nice part of the book, that a woman was the hero. Also the diary part! I hope you will consider reading it 🙂

  • Great review! I love historical fiction, especially mysteries that flip back and forth from present day to the past. I will definitely have to check this out!

    • Thanks Laura! I hope that when you do, you will like it as much as I did.

  • Always good to hear about a new historical fiction novel!

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  • Just love the page 351 quote & I couldn’t have agreed more. I love stories about war & The Resistance and about how women fought for their freedom. Sounds like a very beautiful story, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • You’re welcome. That quote really stood out for me, Celeste, because it’s so true! I can say without a doubt that this was one of my favourite reads for 2013. I cannot recommend it more. You’re welcome to borrow my book 🙂

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