If you follow my blog you’ll know I love historic fiction, especially fiction focusing on the two world wars. Yes, these novels are fiction but they are often born out of fact and real lives lived. Hence I love how these books educate me and continually teach me about true humanity, compassion and love.
The Secret Messenger by Mandy Robotham is one such novel.
Set in Venice during World War 2, this is a novel that taught me about a history I had know idea of; the history of the Venetian Resistance. Robotham’s storytelling of this particular conflict, which is apparently often portrayed in the history books as the ‘so-called ‘soft’ war of Venice‘ educated me, made my cry a lot and because I’m a sucker for a good romance, excited me. I finished it earlier today and yes, it’s left me with a book hangover!
The Secret Messenger is Stella’s story; a young Venetian woman, an anti-fascist and member of the Venetian Resistance. On the surface Stella plays the part of a ‘grateful collaborator, a Venetian glad to have the protection of‘ the Italians’ ‘bigger German cousins.’ She is sent to work at Nazi High Command as a typist and translator. Here she encounters the mysterious Cristian De Luca, a dedicated member of Mussolini’s fascist party.
Stella is also a Staffetta – ‘a whole army of largely female Resistance workers‘ who are tasked with moving vital secret messages across Italian cities and towns in the fight against fascism and the Nazis. In this role, she saves lives by putting her own life at risk on a daily basis.
This is a truly is a powerful novel as it vividly portrays the vital role that real life Staffettas played in helping the Allies win the war. These woman often put themselves in serious danger by hiding contraband in their shopping bags and prams. At times The Secret Messenger was a brilliantly tense read vividly depicting this risk. I swear, I could feel the raw tension build up within me and I was left gasping for breath.
In a sense The Secret Messenger is also a love letter to Venice. Mandy Robotham’s descriptions of the city clearly portray her love for it and her respect for its history and its people. I’ve never been to Venice but I really want to go now after reading this beautiful book.
The Secret Messenger has only recently been published – 12th December 2019; so if you’re looking for something good to read over Christmas, especially if you’re a lover of historic fiction, I definitely recommend you read this. Just remember to have your tissues close to hand!
Thank you to NetGalley and Avon Books for my advance copy.