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The Italian Girl by Anita Abriel

Beginning in Rome, 1943, Marina Tozzi lives and works with her beloved father, and his art gallery is an escape from the difficulties of the Nazi occupation. Like father, like daughter, she has inherited his expert eye for art. But her father is keeping a secret from his daughter – in the basement of their home, he is hiding a Jewish artist. One day Marina is devasted to come home to find her father and the previously unknown artist murdered by German officers.

Marina flees Rome to Florence, and her father's good friend takes her in. Bernard Berenson is a renowned art expert, and he willingly creates a sanctuary for the daughter of his slain friend. But over time, Marina wants to find more purpose in her life than just getting through each day. She makes friends with a young girl her own age who is guarding a secret, who she is determined to help. When handsome neighbour and artist Carlos proposes she helps the partisan cause by assessing art given to them, the valuable art being something they can sell to further their cause, she agrees, hoping to help save Jewish lives in hiding. Then in a daring act, Marina risks everything to save a priceless painting from falling into Nazi hands. Falling in love with Carlos was never part of the plan, but when they start a relationship, she dares to dream of a better life after the war. But then he disappears, presumed dead…

This is a gripping read that captures well different aspects of the Second World War–the brutality and the brave resistance to being occupied. This book also shines a light on how the Nazis brazenly stole many valuable works of art during this time – and what some people did to save famous works, or recover them and return them to their rightful owners after the war. The Italian Girl is a heartfelt and memorable read with a great sense of place and time and characters to care for.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Simon & Schuster