Hi guys, I’m so thrilled to be a part of Alex Brown’s blog tour! I loved her books that are always full of unforgettable characters, and her writing style that is so gentle and full of feelings. This time, next to my review, the lovely Alex agreed to answer some of my questions – thank you, Alex, and welcome to the blog! – so put your feet high and enjoy!
A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: 11th July 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930’s.
Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother.
Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?
Grace Quinn can’t say that she has a private life – either she cares for her bed bound mother or goes to work at convenient storage company. Grace loves her job and luckily her employers, Mr and Mrs Cohen, love Grace and treat her like family, understanding pressure she lives under. One day Grace opens one unit and discovers that it’s full of valuable art collections but also personal items, such like letters and diaries. Grace is determined to find out to whom they belong and soon discovers a whole life of Connie Levine inside. Encouraged by her work colleagues and friend, Grace decides to step right out of her comfort zones and embark on the journey to Italy, having no idea how many surprises and changes it’s going to bring.
Alex Brown for sure goes from strength to strength with her books, and “A Postcard from Italy” is certainly one of the best books she has written – although I’ve loved all of her previous books, so that’s saying something. I liked the brief mentions of Tindledale – I think this village has a very special place in our hearts, right? Also, Alex Brown creates the most gorgeous and stunning settings for her books, and the way she describes them draws you straight into the story and the place.
I really like to go back and forth between past and present in books, but sadly, not all of the authors can write this way. Alex Brown can. This dual time aspect gives you a real sense of this story and she has brilliantly captured the modern times and the past and it has never felt like reading two separate storylines.
The characters, as usual in Alex’s books, are so well fleshed out, full of emotions and feelings, it simply looks as if she gets into her characters’ heads, and they’re written in such a way that we can easily relate to them, understand them and their motives. Grace is an adorable person, although too loyal in my eyes, but I could so well understand her feelings. She didn’t want to hurt her mother so she’d rather do anything she wanted from her then standing up for herself. Yes, I know, one can say she was a doormat for letting Cora treating her like this, but I don’t think this way, I think she was simply such a good person that first thought of all the others and then about herself. But, seeing her taking the first steps to freedom was absolutely fantastic and I all the time wanted to give her more courage. Connie was another interesting character, full of life and personality, and I really enjoyed how their stories unfolded and how they were connected. Her story was touching and poignant and I’m sure it’s going to melt your heart.
To say that I was annoyed with Grace’s mother Cora would be an understatement. I can’t remember such annoying, manipulative, self – centred character like Cora.
I loved the element of the mystery in this book. Alex Brown has really masterfully plotted it and I sat comfortably, enjoying how she decided to unfold it, to peel the layers off. It was full of sad and poignant moments and the author truly knows how to write them so that they tug at our heart – strings. Connie’s diary entries were a huge part of this mystery and they were so interesting, giving a great insight into this woman, into her life that was full of pain, tears and disappointments but also happiness.
It was a very well crafted story that yes, had its weaker points as well, I somehow didn’t buy the whole bed bound Cora, I’m not sure why, it simply didn’t sit with me, and for me it was too easily solved, but that’s me, so pay no attention, but other than that, it was an excellent read. The pace was only right, there was not a single moment flat and I adored following Grace and all the other characters on their emotional journeys, overpowering problems, and this all set against such stunning settings. And there is so much more to this book that meet the eye. It is full of depth and wisdom, unforgettable characters and clever plot. I can assure you that you’re quickly going to be drawn into the tale, falling for Grace and Connie’s stories. It was captivating, felt honest and was an uplifting, heart – warming read about family dynamics, love and loss. Highly recommended!
Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR
(photo courtesy of Philippa Gedge)
- Alex, if you were to describe “A Postcard from Italy” in three sentences…
An epic love story spanning ninety years. Family secrets to be unravelled that have been hidden since the 1930’s.Intrigue and romance in the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera.
- What would you like your readers to take away from “A Postcard from Italy”?
Awarm, happy, poignant, but ultimately uplifting story with characters that stay with them long after the last page.
- The book combines fiction and history – was it difficult to write it like this?
It was very easy as I love being able to immortalise real events in history, and people too – I often give family members cameo parts too, for example the scene on VE Day mentions Edie, a nippy in Lyons Tea House on The Strand in London, and she is based on my grandmother who was called Edie and worked there too.
4. What inspired you to partly set your story in Italy?
I’ve always wanted to write a book set in Italy after visiting the Italian Riviera with my husband several years ago. I loved everything about that part of the world, the breathtaking scenery, the people, the delicious food and romantic atmosphere and so it was a joy to revisit the area in A Postcard From Italy.
5. When you write, do you always follow a plan or do you let your characters to take you on a journey?
A bit of both. I have a synopsis that I use as a guide but the story always develops as necessary.
6. What’s more important: characters or plot?
Characters. I have to know the character before I write the story for them.
7. On a little lighter note, what are three facts that we don’t know about you Alex?
I’m incredibly superstitious.
I once sang soprano in full chorister outfit on Songs of Praise (I was about 12years old).
I’m learning Spanish.
- If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?
Relax, you’ll get there in the end.
- And what is next for Alex Brown?
I’m about to start a new book for summer 2020 which I’m very excited about and looking forward to sharing the details of as soon as I can.
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