A sequel dramatizes the conflict between fascism and its opponents in Italy and North Africa.
In 1938, Giovanni and Susanna Martellino’s vineyard is foundering, and Alfredo Obizzi, her former lover and a prominent Fascist legislator, gets revenge by blocking potential loans. Isabella Carollo, the wife of the couple’s winemaker and the series’ spiritual guru, encourages Susanna to ask her sister and brother-in-law for assistance. They agree to fund the vineyard—if the Martellinos will hide Jewish refugees. In the nearly eight years that follow, the events that befall these two central families reveal the breadth of Italy’s reach and the variety of World War II experiences. The Martellinos’ son, DeAngelo, travels to Benghazi, Libya, to compare techniques at the Romero family’s vineyard. The Romeros praise Il Duce’s modernization of North Africa, but DeAngelo points out that Mussolini’s latest manifesto has robbed Jews of their jobs and property. When the war heats up, DeAngelo helps Italian families escape Libya and later joins the Resistance. Meanwhile, his half brother, Pietro, Susanna’s son by Obizzi, is engaged in trench warfare in Albania and suffers temporary amnesia after a mortar attack. Back home, Susanna and Isabella volunteer at a prison hospital. In a touching second-generation romance, DeAngelo falls for Isabella’s daughter, Lily. As the Nazis ramp up their campaign against the Italian partisans, the stage is set for a gripping finale and a twist ending. Once again, Physioc (The Walls of Lucca, 2018), an Emmy Award–winning sportscaster for the Kansas City Royals and Fox College Basketball, brings wartime Italy to vibrant life. With the Libya material, he adds a layer of interest, bravely tackling colonialism alongside the many other social issues. The book languishes in the middle and could stand to lose 100 pages, but a pacey final third makes up for it. Isabella remains a mostly credible spokeswoman for mindfulness and forgiveness (as in The Walls of Lucca): “Enjoy right now” and “Don’t give anyone power over your thoughts. Don’t let the Fascists…or anyone take your peace.”
Convincing historical fiction with a spiritual slant.