Rhys Bowen Takes Readers on a Journey to the Past in ‘The Tuscan Child’ [REVIEW]

San Gimignano
A woman travels to Italy to discover the truth about her father’s past in Rhys Bowen’s The Tuscan Child. (Photo by Roberto Trombetta, Flickr)

A father’s secrets. A daughter’s search for answers. The place that heals them both. In Rhys Bowen’s The Tuscan Child, thirty years separates two people bound by blood and trauma. But within the breathtaking Italian countryside, they’ll find a way forward.

Lake Union

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugh Langley parachutes from his stricken plane and lands in German occupied Tuscany. He hides inside a ruined monastery to nurse his wounds, where he also falls in love with Sofia Bartoli. But a bitter betrayal may ruin everything.

Thirty years later, Hugh has died and his daughter, Joanna, returns home to the English countryside to plan his funeral. As she sorts through his personal effects, she finds a letter addressed to Sofia which offers her insight into her father’s past.

Soon, she finds herself on a journey of self-discovery to Tuscany, where she sorts through her own traumatic experiences and seeks answers to the questions she has about her father’s history. But the more she digs into the past, the more apparent it becomes that some people would rather keep the past buried.

I love stories that take us on a grand journey to a picturesque place, particularly at times like these, when many of us find it impossible to travel physically. If you also find yourself needing to scratch that wanderlust itch, experience another culture, and savor the tastes, sounds, and sights of another country, The Tuscan Child will prove to be just the ticket you’ve been looking for.

The novel takes place in two parallel time periods. Hugh is our guide through World War II Italy and his daughter Joanna makes her own journey during the mid-1970s. Both prove engaging travel companions as we watch their stories unfold. They are both intriguing enough to keep us engaged, but it is Tuscany itself that is the real selling point here, and Bowen’s handling of the vicinity is utterly enchanting.

If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie like we are, you will love all the details Bowen includes about Italian food and how it is prepared. There are several passages, particularly surrounding a religious festival, that made us want to pack our bags and book a flight. Everything simply sounded so savory and decadent, we wanted to sample all the eats ourselves.

Of course, not everything is perfect here, but few books are totally without fault. It doesn’t quite make sense that Joanna can practically speak Italian like a native after one foreign language course. Also, some of the words used within the book aren’t really ones an Englishwoman would likely use, but if you can overlook these small details, this book proves to be a very pleasant diversion on a lazy afternoon.

Still, per her usual, Bowen does a fine job plotting the story, teasing us with loads of clues about what the rest of the tale will bring, incorporating the occasional flashback and dropping red herrings so we are kept guessing as we read.

If you enjoy emotional stories set against the backdrop of World War II and the Italian landscape, The Tuscan Child should definitely be added to your to-be-read pile. It entertains even as it pulls at your heartstrings, but all in all it makes for a beguiling read.

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Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Royal Spyness series about a penniless minor royal in 1930s Britain; the atmospheric Molly Murphy mysteries about a feisty Irish immigrant in 1900s New York City; and the Constable Evans books.

Rhys is the recipient of several Agatha Awards, including ones for best novel (Murphy’s Law) and best historical novel (Naughty in Nice and Queen of Hearts); several Anthony Awards, including those for best historical novel (For the Love of Mike) and best short story (“Doppelganger”); and the 2016 Romantic Times career achievement award. She is also an Edgar Award nominee for best novel (Evan’s Gate).

Born in Bath, England, Rhys attended London University and married into a family with historic royal connections. She now divides her time between California and Arizona.

For more information, visit RhysBowen.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. Visit her home on the Web at RhysBowen.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Rhys Bowen
Rhys Bowen
(Photo by John Quinn Harkin)

By Rhys Bowen
352 pgs. Lake Union. $24.95

Purchase The Tuscan Child direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, or Powell’s.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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