The Garden of Angels
The Garden of Angels
by David Hewson
Published 6 April 2021
Severn House Publishers
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Believe it or not, I actually received two ARCs of this book: The first an eARC via NetGalley widget supplied to participant in this tour with Rachel’s Random Resources, and the second an audio ARC, also through NetGalley, that I happened to request before being confirmed for the tour and was then approved for anyway. I listened to the audio ARC because listening fit better into my schedule, but I very much appreciate both ARCs. Thank you to all involved in giving me this opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
The Garden of Angels is a story split between the present and the past. In the present, Nico Uccello has been suspended from school for a week for watching classmates attack a Jewish newcomer. When he confesses this to his dying grandfather, his grandfather gives him his own story, written down in parts, to read and keep secret until he is finished. In the past (grandfather Paolo’s memoir), young Paolo lives in Nazi-occupied Italy and finds himself entangled in the underground Jewish resistance.
The former history student in me jumped at the chance to review this title! 20th Century wartime history was my focus, but I didn’t get much from the Italian perspective in my studies. Even though this is fiction, it’s clearly steeped in historical fact. That alone made this an enjoyable read to me. Add in the suspense aspect of not knowing how Paolo’s story will resolve or what Nico will do with this new knowledge and I couldn’t put it down!
The majority of this book set in the past reads like a novelized autobiography of the sort my history professors would have assigned to undergrads to understand the mindset of the people we were studying, like when we read Hilary’s The First and the Last. The portions set in the present beautifully illustrate a teenage boy’s breakthrough from complacently racist and passive to informed, righteous, and ready to stand up for the rights of others. I was particularly struck by the way the elders in his life responded when he started asking for other memories to go alongside his grandfather’s and how not all of them were as willing. He didn’t realize what sort of pain and fear he was asking them to uncover, and their sharp responses made him realize how little respect he was giving them and their past.
Overall the story this book tells is beautifully heartbreaking, or heartbreakingly beautiful. It has a thriller element, and though it isn’t overly fast-paced, there are no dull moments. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history, historical fiction, or heartfelt life lesson stories.
Richard Armitage’s narration is excellent! He does such a great job making sure all major characters sound distinctly different, and handles accents and Italian names well. I appreciate that he hasn’t tried to pitch up female voices to the point of sounding comical, as some male narrators tend to do. His own lower voice is so pleasant to listen to, I wouldn’t want any squeaky falsetto interruptions to the buttery flow of everything else. I will absolutely look for Richard Armitage listed as the narrator when browsing titles in the future.
This review has been cross-posted from a blog tour post on Jenna’s personal blog last month, which took place ahead of the book’s release. For additional information about the book and quick access to other reviews from the tour, check out that original post here.