By Rhys Bowen
Lake Union Publishing, 2018
A young English woman at a crossroads in her life goes searching for “the beautiful boy” her late father had written about in a letter to a mysterious Italian woman years before.
Alternating in time between the nineteen forties and the nineteen seventies, between the point of view of Hugo and his daughter Joanna, we learn about an Italian hillside village in the waning, dangerous months before the end of the Second World War, and about how that village kept its dark secrets a generation later, when Joanna goes looking for them.
With its themes of Europe in World War II and English aristocrats struggling to cope with the loss of their prestige and their homes in the bloodless social revolution that occurred in Britain post-war, this novel combines history with a mystery.
The book, delightfully, is also about food. Living with Paola, a widow who rents out rooms to tourists, Joanna savors specialties like eggplant parmesan, bruschetta, risotto, and other Italian favorites familiar to us today, but strange and wonderful to the English visitor forty years ago.
As to the “beautiful boy”, that is for you to discover as you read this page-turning novel.