Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Review: The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, good story
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
A hidden letter
Sends Joanna on a quest
In delightful book

Can Joanna Solve the Mystery of Her Father’s Past?

Rhys Bowen has been on my auto buy list for years.  It helps that I’ve enjoyed her various series, and the stand alones she’s branched out to are just as good.  The Tuscan Child expertly juggles two different time lines to tell one outstanding story.

When Joanna Langley’s father, Hugo, dies, she returns to what is left of the family estate in the English countryside.  Hugo had been forced to sell it years ago when his own father died, so there isn’t much for Joanna to take care of except sort through for any personal effects from his life she might want.  She isn’t expecting to find anything she is interested in, but in an old trunk, she stumbles across a letter written to someone named Sofia in Italy.  Even weirder, it references Hugo having hidden “our beautiful boy.”

Joanna knew her father had been shot down over Italy during World War II, but that’s all she knew of the time.  But now she is wondering if she has a half-brother.  Curious, she sets out for the Tuscany region of Italy.  What will she find there?

This book tells us the story from Hugo’s point of view in December of 1944 and Joanna’s perspective in 1973.  The two time periods are easy to follow since each chapter has a clear heading.  Additionally, the 1944 chapters are narrated in third person while Joanna narrates the 1973 chapters in first person.  By the time the book is finished, we have a full understanding of just what happened back then.

But the book is more than a mystery.  In some ways, it feels like a coming of age story for Joanna.  Oh, she’s in her late 20’s, but she grows so much over the course of the book, I feel the description fits.

Of course, that means the mystery might be slower than some would like.  I might surprise you when I saw I didn’t mind.  There was enough of a mystery there to keep me going, but I was so engaged with Joanna and her journey that I was hooked the entire way through.  Honestly, I’m ready to visit Tuscany myself now; the book made it that appealing.

Obviously, I loved the characters.  They drew me into the book and I really did feel like I’d made some new friends by the time everything was done.

Please don’t take my comments about the plot the wrong way.  The mystery element of what happened in 1944 and how that is playing out in 1973 is well done.  Between the two time periods, we get a full picture of what happened to Hugo back then and a resolution to the “modern” storyline as well.  I had no questions left by the time I turned the final page.

About my only complaint was one of my own making.  Despite the headers at the beginning of every chapter, I had the hardest time remembering that Joanna’s parts of the book took place in 1973.  I can be so dense sometimes, can’t I?  And it was all completely on me, too.

The Tuscan Child was a bit of a change of pace for me, and I enjoyed every page of it.  Set aside some time and get lost in Tuscany with this great book.


  1. I really enjoyed this one as well! I agree about the slowness of the mystery but it wasn't a problem for me either. I've really been impressed with Bowen's stand alone books!

  2. I agree that it is a good read. My copy came from the public library, but anytime I can't get a Bowen book there, I will buy it. She is a great writer. This book is well worth reading and you wrote a good review of it. Thanks! judy