‘The Garden Of Angels’ by David Hewson


At his beloved Nonno Paolo’s deathbed, fifteen-year-old Nico receives a gift that will change his life forever: a yellowing manuscript which tells the haunting, twisty tale of what really happened to his grandfather in Nazi-occupied Venice in 1943.

The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he’s waited his whole life to share.

When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches – earning him a week’s suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .

Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather’s life: when Paolo’s support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city’s underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can’t stop reading – but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.

My Review

I have a little confession to make.  Although I have a few of David’s books on my ‘to be read’ mountain, I haven’t actually read one yet or I hadn’t until now.  Anybody who knows me, knows that not only am I a book geek but I am also a history nerd with a special interest in the Second World War.  So you can imagine why the synopsis of ‘The Garden Of Angels’ appealed to me.  I was certain that I would enjoy it and I must be psychic because that is exactly what happened but more about that in a bit.

I must be honest and say that it took me a little while to get into this story but when I got into the story, that was it and I was away.  I had to read this book in bursts because things like life got in the way.  Any bit of spare time I had was given over to reading just another page or just another chapter and so on.  It was as if the book had developed a hold over me and it was a hold that I wasn’t willing to break.  I just couldn’t turn the pages quick enough as I became desperate to know how the story was going to conclude.

‘The Garden Angels’ is extremely well written.  The author certainly knows how to grab your attention from the start and draw you into what proves to be a compelling read.  I love the way in which he manages to bring Second World War Venice to life.  Until they invent a time machine that can take you back to that particular era, reading realistic books such as this one are going to be the nearest thing you can get to actually being there yourself.  I felt as though I was part of the story myself and that’s thanks to David’s very realistic and vivid storytelling.  I found ‘The Garden Of Angels’ to be a gripping read that really did take on an emotional journey through a family’s history.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Garden Of Angels ‘and I would recommend it to other readers.  I will certainly be reading more of David’s work in the future.  The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 4* out of 5*.

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