Monday, 14 January 2019

Spotlight and Review: The Secret by Katharine Johnson

The Secret by Katharine Johnson

Love, Lies, and Betrayal in Wartime Italy.

Two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy share a secret that has devastating consequences.

Against a backdrop of fear, poverty and confusion during the Second World War, friendship is tested, and loyalties are divided until a chance encounter changes everything. 

Their lives diverge when beautiful, daring Martina marries and moves into Villa Leonida, the most prestigious house in their Tuscan mountain village, while plain, studious Irena trains to be a teacher.

But neither marriage nor life at Villa Leonida are as Martina imagined. And as other people's lives take on a new purpose, Irena finds herself left behind.

Decades later, a tragedy at the villa coincides with the discovery of an abandoned baby, whose identity threatens to re-open old wounds among the next generation.

With the Tuscan Mountains as a stunning backdrop, the title of this novel is so apt as the captivating narrative unfolds to reveal covert lies from the past.

The story begins in 1992 as Sonia discovers a baby, however from that point on, there's a duel time-line where Sonia is living with the guilt of her secret, her childhood friend, Carlos returns to Santa Zita to discover secrets from the past are not what he believed. Whilst we are also transported back to 1940 when Mussolini was in power and follow the lives of their mothers; Martina and Irena...friends who became enemies.

I've always enjoyed reading fiction based during WWII with this was one featuring the events in Italy. An area of history I am unfamiliar with. The author did a fabulous job of weaving historical details into the narrative with many twists and turns before all the hidden truths are uncovered and revealed years which proved to be different to what I expected and I very much appreciated the element of surprise.

The writing flows and as a reader who is familiar with Tuscany, it was easy for me to visualise Villa Leonida as it once was and how it appears during the contemporary setting within the small rustic village where it's located.

The revealing of truths and the consequences are both shocking and relatable and I particularly liked and appreciated the reactions are not predictable, so bravo to Ms Johnson for highlighting that time is definitely a healer and mistakes can be forgiven.

Overall this is an intriguing book set during a challenging time in history left me with a thirst for more. I enjoyed reading The Secret as a standalone because I dived in without checking out Ms Johnson's other works. After finishing this novel, I'm curious to know what happened previously in The Silence.

***review copy received courtesy of Crooked Cat Books***

Katharine Johnson likes writing about ordinary people who through a character flaw or bad decision find themselves in extraordinary situations. She’s a journalist living in Berkshire, England with her family and springy spaniel. When she’s not writing you’ll find her exploring cities, visiting old houses, playing netball, eating cake or restoring her house in Italy which is nothing like Villa Leonida.

Giveaway – Win 1 x Signed copy of The Secret and 1 x Signed Copy of The Silence (UK Only)
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