In a tiny hamlet nestled in the Tuscan mountains, farmers gather after a hard day in the meadows, and children’s laughter rings across the square: but one little boy does not join in their play. Behind his deep brown eyes, hides a heartbreaking secret…
Ninety years later. When elderly Giselda Chiozzi discovers a lost little boy, curled up asleep in the beech forest outside her grand but empty home, she can’t help but take pity on him. It’s been a long time since she had a visitor. Waking up to her kind smile and the warming smell of Italian hot chocolate, Davide soon blurts out what drove him into the cold Tuscan night: he’s different from everyone else, he’s never belonged anywhere, and now his beloved mother is ill.
With her heart full of sadness for this lost child, Giselda promises to help Davide trace his family history – she knows better than anyone that connecting with your roots can ground you in the present, and hopes it will make Davide realise that home is where he truly belongs.
Together the unlikely pair discover the story of Davide’s great-grandfather, Giuseppe Starnucci, a young boy who spent his days milking cows, helping with the harvest, and hammering horseshoes in the forge. But after a terrible incident that changed his life forever, Giuseppe also ran away. Forced to become a man before his time, Giuseppe joined the treacherous pilgrimage all Tuscan farmers must make from the mountains to the plains, sacrificing everything to ensure the survival of their families.
Engrossed in the story, Davide is slowly starting to heal when he and Giselda discover a shocking secret which Giuseppe took to his grave – and which now threatens to tear apart Davide’s family for good. Will Davide let the pain of the past determine his future, or can he find the courage, love and loyalty within him to return home… and even if Davide himself finds peace, will it be too late for Giselda?
This week marks the publication of the latest novel by Angela Petch. A Tuscan Memory was published in digital format by Bookouture on 7 September and, to celebrate, Angela has kindly agreed to visit the blog and tell us a bit about the inspiration behind her writing.
Italian Inspiration by Angela Petch
They say truth is boring and that fiction makes truth more exciting. But, having lived in several countries, I have never found my life boring. Maurice and I met in Sicily where we both worked for a Dutch construction Company. I had escaped to Italy after a disastrous relationship and had given up on men. (My husband always feels uncomfortable when I say that. “Am I not a man, then?” he asks.) When you are least expecting it, something brilliant happens. Escaping from one man, I fell in love with another and Maurice and I married in Italy less than one year later. Then we moved to Tanzania where we worked and explored this fascinating country for three years. We have been together for forty-three years. Maurice has an Italian mother and I spent my early years in Rome, so this beautiful country has always had a hold on both of us.
Wind back twenty years from today. Three children growing up and the decision to downsize and buy a ruin in Italy with what was left over (after a parents’ evening that didn’t go so well and made us run for consolation to the pub). It was one of the best things we ever did.
Ten years further on, and a health warning led to early retirement. By now, our children were more or less independent and we packed up to start a dream life: six months in Tuscany each year, running our small holiday rental business.
At the age of sixty, I finally had time to write. I think that in the interim I had been gathering ideas and stories, like a seamstress collecting patches of material to sew into a quilt. Before then, I wasn’t ready.
It hasn’t been difficult to find more stories where we live in our remote river valley hidden in the eastern Tuscan Apennines.
When I walk along the ancient mule paths, I feel that I am breathing in history. Our area was occupied during the Second World War and this is the period that fascinates me. I combined local accounts from elderly friends with the experiences of my Italian mother-in-law who met and married her handsome English army Captain when he was stationed nearby. My husband describes himself as a son of the Gothic Line – a defensive barrier constructed by the German army which extended from east to west coast and practically past our door. I have uncovered plenty of facts about local partisan activity and escaped POWs and they feature heavily in the three books that I have written so far. Having been indie, I am now published by Bookouture and am under contract to write two more Second World War novels.
I write most afternoons in a study on a mezzanine at the top of our converted stable.
As we live in a remote area in Italy, there are no local writing groups to join, so I’m so pleased that we now have access to the internet and I can engage with the writing community. I started off as an indie author, but as a result of involving myself with groups online and joining the RNA, I am now published by Bookouture and haven’t looked back. In the early days, the only way to access the internet was to use a dongle and drive up the mountain to a layby where I could get reception. I won’t expand on some of the dodgy propositions I received, sitting there in my car…
Our life in England where we live in the winter is much busier. I manage to write more in Italy. The country inspires me; it is so beautiful and intriguing.
Thank you for sharing that with us, Angela, you obviously live in the midst of an inspiring landscape.
About the Author
Angela Petch shares her year between the Tuscan Apennines and West Sussex.
Her love affair with Italy was born at the age of seven when she moved with her family to Rome. Her father worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he made sure his children learned Italian and soaked up the culture. She studied Italian at the University of Kent at Canterbury and afterwards worked in Sicily where she met her husband. His Italian mother and British father met in Urbino in 1944 and married after a wartime romance.
Her first book, Tuscan Roots was written in 2012, for her Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina, and also to make readers aware of the courage shown by families of her Italian neighbours during WW2. Signed by Bookouture in 2018, this book was republished as The Tuscan Secret in June 2019. The Tuscan Girl followed in February 2020.
Now and Then in Tuscany, was self-published in April 2017 and features the same family. The background is the transhumance, a practice that started in Etruscan times and continued until the 1950s. Bookouture has since acquired the rights, and under a new title, A Tuscan Memory will be released on September 7th 2020. Research for her Tuscan novels is greatly helped by her knowledge of Italian and conversations with locals.
Although Italy is a passion, her stories are not always set in this country. Mavis and Dot, published at the end of 2018 and sold in aid of research into a cure for cancer, tells the story of two fun-loving ladies who retire to the Sussex seaside. They forge an unlikely friendship and fall into a variety of adventures. Ingenu/e Magazine describes it as: “Absolutely Fabulous meets Last of the Summer Wine… a gently hilarious feel-good book that will enchant and delight…”.
A prize-winning author and member of the RNA, she also loves to travel and recently returned to Tanzania, where she lived at the start of her marriage. A keen tennis player and walker, she enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren and inventing stories for their entertainment.
Her short stories are published by PRIMA and the People’s Friend.
Connect with Angela:
Facebook: Angela Petch Author