The One with the Laguna in a Messy War

Martin Cruz Smith, The Girl from Venice (2016)

Some places are so full of history that they seem to escape time. So much so that you can’t really imagine these places in a particular, different historical moment. Or is it just me? Such is Venice, Italy. Have you ever imagined Venice during World War 2? Mmh, me neither.

The book was recommended by Annie from A Bookish Type, and I immediately requested the book from Netgalley, because Venice. Yes, I am aware that this is not a good enough reason and that it might expose me to all kinds of disappointments, but here I am. One more title in my Netgalley queue.

I didn’t regret it, but it wasn’t what I thought. It was not Venice proper, in fact, but more of the tiny fishermen’s villages in the Venetian lagoon, and how the end of WWII played out for the people living there.

There’s the good brother, Cenzo, a widower reformed from war, who one night fishes a girl out of the water. More like a Jewish young woman who barely escaped murder in the hands of… who exactly? German Nazis, Italian fascists, scheming traitors, you name it…

There’s the bad brother, Giorgio, who is so cute and ambitious that he has become a famous actor and propagandist in Fascist Italy, and has made his career outside Venice. Except that he too sees the end of war and the defeat coming and  the scores that will be settled, and that he needs to lie low.

There’s also a third, dead brother, but he’s just a piece in a jigsaw that had far too many pieces to my liking. I was confused many times about what, who, where, and luckily the pace was brisk and the dialogues funny enough so that I just followed the motions. I didn’t care enough for the characters and there were probably too many of them.

Part of the book is set in the Venice islands, part of the book in Salo, where the last Fascists and Nazis were waiting for the final victory and clung to this belief until the very end. It is a fascinating period to write about and set an action thriller, mystery and love story, but I felt I missed something.

I received an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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