An inspiring tale of quiet heroism during wartime.
In an Author’s Note, first-time biographer Kinman begins the story of her neighbor with the assertion that â€œwriting a memoir means: what happened happened, there is no fantasy in reality.” However, what results here is a real story, as she seamlessly relates Franca’s experiences in war-torn northern Italy during the years 1937-45. In fact, some of the more captivating moments in the narrative contradict Kinman’s avowal of the real–Franca’s experiences demonstrate the need for fantasy in reality, particularly when that reality is shattered by war. Born the youngest of seven into an upper-class Florentine family in 1926, Franca witnesses the breakup of her happy home as her brothers are sent off to war, some of her sisters marry and leave and the rest of the family is forced to flee to the Italian Riviera. She and her aged parents end up virtually imprisoned in Villa Pianore, near Capezzano, where hundreds of elderly Italians seek refuge from the occupying Germans. Young Franca shows great bravery and ingenuity as she scavenges nearby fields for food for the villa’s refugees, but an even more poignant scene occurs in the kitchen, where the starving Franca and a friend retreat to read recipes to one other. Reciting the ingredients engages the girls’ imaginations and momentarily staves off their hunger.
Ample yet unassuming, and illustrated with period photos and evocative paintings by Franca, this touching memoir is an enjoyable journey for lovers of Italy and those interested in tales of courage.