By: Alyson Richman
Publisher: The Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 2, 2014
Using the backdrop of World War II Italy, Alyson Richmon delivers an engaging story in her latest novel, The Garden of Letters.
The story opens with the introduction of Elodie Bertolotti, an accomplished cello prodigy. She lives in Verona, Italy and was blessed at birth with her father’s gift of music and her mother’s hypnotic beauty. War is the furthest thing from Elodie’s world until Mussolini’s Fascist regime is on her family’s doorstep. Elodie has no intentions of being drawn into the resistance movement until she meets Luca—a young man with a passion for his books. With the Occupation looming on Verona’s horizon, Elodie realizes her musical talent can contribute more than a lull of listening enjoyment and save lives from the devastation and ravages of war. Perhaps this is the reason Elodie was graced with her gift of music.
War is not selective in those it scars. Alone and frightened, Elodie’s journey takes her to Portofino. She is a stranger in a strange place as she steps off the boat. It would not have come to this had she not forgotten the secret code she was supposed to play on her cello for the Wolf that night. The Verona she barely escaped is now a sad memory and her reality is that it is a place she can never return to. Fortunately for Elodie, young doctor Angelo Roselli is at the docks and what she doesn’t know is he will be her sanctuary. Angelo is weighted down by his own burden of battle wounds in the form of guilt and remorse. Destiny has placed these two strangers in this moment with little more than a glimmer of hope and the prospect of new beginnings.
Alyson Richman accomplishes a heartfelt connection for the reader with her rendition of what it must have been like to survive one of the most iconic wars of our time. Her style lends a tangible ‘in the moment’ sense of being right beside the characters during the Occupation in Italy during World War II. Richman lends her distinct voice to her main character, Elodie Bertolotti, enabling the reader to feel the depth of her tragic experiences and loss. Yet, the sublime thread of hope Richman has woven throughout the story provides a comfortable cadence for the reader’s use in turning each page. Richman breathes life into each character and uses the premise of the importance of Elodie’s cello playing that reaches beyond music to one’s ears as the substance to establish a strong pace in moving the story eventually to its ending. This story is full of heart and this is the very essence of what a solid story is intended to be: the ‘perfect escape.’
Quill says: The Garden of Letters is a moving account of endurance and perseverance and Ms. Richman deserves praise for its delivery.