Book Review: Villa of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

Rebecca Neumanner’s marriage is on the brink of collapse, as her desire to be a mother becomes an obsession. Then she receives news from her estranged family in Rhodes.

Called back to the beautiful Greek island of her birth, she realises how little she knows of the grandmother she has eluded for over a decade. Bubba has never spoken of the Nazi occupation during her youth, but there have always been whispers. What desperate measures did she take that terrible day in 1944 when her family was ripped apart? Can the rumour she had blood on her own hands really be true? But Bubba intends to take her secrets to the grave.

However, as Rebecca arrives on Rhodes, bringing the promise of new life, this broken family must come together. The time has come to tell the truth about the darkest of days…

What I Thought:
A book depicting the deportation of Jews during the war is not where you would first go when thinking of a summer holiday read, but while Villa of Secrets deals with some horrific things and is inspired by real events, it also gives some beautiful and evocative descriptions of modern-day Rhodes.

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed when it comes to history, but every day is a school day, and I was interested to learn more about Rhodes and the experiences of its citizens during the war. For instance, did you know that between the wars, Rhodes belonged to Italy? I had no idea… Alongside these new bits of information, is an epic family story in which two grand-daughters learn about the incredibly courageous deeds done by their grandmother under German occupation.

The novel was structured really well, with the modern-day sections interspersed with diary entries made by Pandora Cohen who was able to escape the mass deportation of Jewish Rhodians and survive in the mountains as a member of the Greek resistance. Although Pandora is not real, her story is modelled on a real-life woman who had similar experiences. There are also some interesting notes and further links at the back of the book to allow readers to explore the inspirations for the novel further.

It struck me that the novel was obviously impeccably researched, but it did not try to cram all that research into the narrative. Real historical fact and indicators of the time were included, but worked well alongside the original characters and situations. I love it when this is done well and it was a big plus on this novel for me.

What’s obvious in this novel is the very strong women at its core; strong-willed Rebecca, Naomi who is looking after everyone at the expense of her own interests and Pandora, who lost so much during the war and sacrificed herself again to raise her grand-daughters, form a tight and formidable family unit and their relationships are complex, infuriating and very true to life!

So in summary, if you’re planning your summer reading, Villa of Secrets would be a great addition to your list. Published by Zaffre and released on 22nd Feb on Kindle, a paperback copy will follow in May.

You can find out more about this book and the author, Patricia Wilson, by checking out her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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