The Liberation by Kate Furnivall
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 3rd November 2016
Source: Received in return for an honest review.
Number of pages: 560
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family’s past be her downfall? This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.
Last year I read and totally enjoyed Kate Furnivall’s “The Italian Wife”, so I started reading “The Liberation” with my expectations highly set – I really expected a lot from this novel and from this author. And believe me, guys, it is a long book, with almost 600 pages, but there was not a single dull moment and the author kept me in dark, adding a lot of tension and suspense , and I. Loved. This. Book. Everything there had its own place and even though it started relatively slowly – but hey, with such a long book there is no pressure, right, and it was brilliant that the author took her time to slowly introduce us to all the threads in this very complex, very advanced and expanded plot – there came a moment that I couldn’t get enough of the reading, that I couldn’t put the book down.
The story is set in Italy, post – war, with the British and American soldiers still present in the country, trying to bring order back to Italian lives. When Catarina Lombardi was only ten, her mother has left her family, abandoning her and her baby brother and leaving her father as a single – parent, and also causing a scandal in the traditional Italy. Now, eleven years later, it is 1945 and the war is over, but it is far away from Naples living in peace – hence the American and British soldiers staying there. Caterina lives now with only her young brother and a blind grandfather, as her father has been killed when working in his workshop by a bomb explosion, so it is up to Caterina to keep the heads above the water. She stepped into her father shoes and is now creating beautiful boxes and items from wood that she sells in Naples, often to the soldiers. But when two of them, out of the blue, visit her at home, disturbing, turbulent and eventful times come for Caterina and she soon finds herself fighting for her own, as well as for her family’s, lives, freedom and desperately trying to discover the truth about her family’s past. Is she going to find answers to all her questions? Is she going to bring danger on her family?
The writing is so rich and so full of imagination and Kate Furnivall has transported me with her descriptions effortlessly to Italy and the tension and uncertainty was palpable through the pages, the Italy was bustling and the characters were effortlessly brought to life. They are so incredibly well developed and Catarina is a brilliant lead character – she was strong – willed, she wasn’t afraid to put herself into dangerous situations only to help her family and to clean the honour of her father; she was stubborn and she had a great ability to find the truth and she never took any prisoners, and she only felt satisfied when she’s seen things with her own eyes, which of course led her to many dangerous situations and often endangered her own life. But in my eyes she was a real inspiration, she was bold, incredibly loyal and searching.
There were many characters introduced to us in this story and the author has made them all so complex personalities, and I really wasn’t sure who is there to help Caterina, and who is there to disturb her. It often happens that you feel almost paranoid when reading about such characters however not in this story. It kept me on my toes, it made me feel suspicious but it also made me fell incredibly intrigued and I wanted to discover who is the person I can trust. Every single character was so very significant to the plot, even the most background ones, and their appearance always added a new question, a new curveball and I loved, I simply loved, how in the end, somehow, all the characters and their stories, come together.
Kate Furnivall described life in Italy with so many small details and captured all the problems, fears and tension that bothered people in those times, and it was often so heart – breaking to see what people were forced to do only to survive. She has described the groups of children running wild on the streets, she has told us how the women needed to earn their bread and what kind of things kept people stay alive when Italy was trying to run again after the war. She has also shown how corruption, conspiracies worked and how hard it was for people like Caterina, people who were honest and didn’t want to hurt anybody, to survive.
One the main mysteries in the book is the one about Caterina’s father, Roberto – it seemed he was being involved in things that Caterina didn’t want to believe in, that she wanted to shut out. Among this mystery all the others are built, creating a story with multiple layers, slowly falling away and making the novel incredibly hooking. Among the team being involved in the investigations are Jake and Harry, two American soldiers who are trying – or maybe disturbing – Caterina to find the truth, as it seems that her beloved father has known much more than his daughter thought. And it was really this moment when the book took off and never stopped – the author fed us with new information and details but in a way that I’ve never felt overwhelmed or confused.
The way the author was adding clues and tips was so, so clever and subtle! But personally, I haven’t predicted what was coming, I didn’t guess any of the threads and for me it is a sign of a really brilliant, cleverly plotted story. I enjoyed the fact that the author took me on a curvy rollercoaster journey with her story, I just went with the flow and more than once I wanted to gasp in horror, more than once I wanted to shout to Caterina to be cautious and more than once I found myself totally surprised with the turn of events.
This story is masterfully plotted! I often found myself holding my breath at the new curveball, at the incredible web of lies, secrets and understatements, and how the Italian traditional family bonds, how the view that the family honour is the most important thing in the world could change lives. I, with a great joy and admiration, watched how those secrets were slowly being resolved and how all the pieces of the puzzles found their places. I also can’t express enough how much I admired the lot of work and research that the author for certain has put into writing this novel. It was grand, complex story with many layers and I couldn’t wait for them to be peeled back, to see what’s hidden and what exciting things are to come yet. “The Liberation” is an epic tale. It is a power house of a story. It is full of brilliantly developed and expressive characters with their own distinctive voices and stories that added a lot of tension. There is mystery to be solved, dazzlingly tangled, not at all obvious but rather keeping you on your toes and getting under your skin, as you are desperate to know what has really happened. There is suspense, there is romance and this all in the right quantity and masterfully and skilfully dosed throughout the whole story. The writing is beautiful, engaging and rich in descriptions and details but not in the way that makes you want to skip some of them because there are too many of them – I personally didn’t want to skip a single word, as for me they were all so important and significant. It is a story of love and hate, of loss and win, of honour, loyalty and hope. It is full of heart – breaking moments as well as many uplifting moments, it is a historical fiction with a difference and I will be recommending it to all my friends – it is a book that shouldn’t be missed!