“What is possible will come only at a great cost to all of us. Perhaps tomorrow will be our day of reckoning, but it is the days that will come after many tomorrows that we must keep our eyes fixed on.”
(from Bianca’s Vineyard, page 239)
Quick summary: Bianca’s Vineyard is a novel set primarily in Tuscany during World War II and centered on the Bertozzi family, known for making wine and sculpting marble. Teresa Neumann based the novel on the true story of her husband’s grandparents, Egisto and Armida Bertozzi, who hastily married in 1913 on the eve of Egisto’s immigration to America. While the political storms begin to brew in Europe, a storm rages in Egisto and Armida’s St. Paul, Minnesota, home as secrets from the past are brought to light. When Armida finds herself back in Italy, separated from her husband and children, her ties to the fascists jeopardize the new life she has created.
Why I wanted to read it: I haven’t read many books set in Tuscany (a place I hope to visit someday) during World War II, and I was intrigued by the fact that it’s based on a true story.
What I liked: I was swept up in this novel from the very beginning, intrigued by the setting and the secrets hinted at by Bianca Corrotti, Egisto’s 88-year-old niece, as she prepares to meet his American grandson for the first time in 2001. I liked how after the prologue, Neumann told the story in chronological order, rather than going back and forth in time like so many historical novels do these days. Neumann inserts the history of the region during World War II into the story without jarring readers out of the narrative, and those details were helpful to me since I can only remember reading one other novel set in Italy during the war (The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele). Most importantly, Neumann brings these characters to life, especially Armida, emphasizing their complexities so readers cannot forget that they are based on real people, flaws and all, and filling in the gaps in the family history with realistic scenarios.
What I disliked: Nothing!
Final thoughts: Bianca’s Vineyard transports readers back in time to a chaotic period in Italy’s history and how people did what they had to do in order to survive or at least be able to live with themselves when all was said and done. It’s a novel about loyalty, survival, compassion, and forgiveness and touches upon such themes as war, familial obligation, mental illness, and cultural differences. The story of the Bertozzis is so fascinating that I can see why Neumann decided to write about them. Bianca’s Vineyard is definitely a contender for my “Best of 2015” reading list.
Disclosure: I received Bianca’s Vineyard from the author for review.
© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.