Reviewed by Emma Crowley
The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger.
One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father's name. An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family.
Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?
I knew when I was writing my books of the year post/giveaway for Sharon's blogiversary that there were a number of books coming out that I would want to include. Unfortunately at the time of writing they hadn't been published yet so I couldn't include them in my selection. I sensed before beginning The Liberation by Kate Furnivall that I was going to enjoy it. I am a big fan of Kate's writing and have loved everything she has written since her début The Russian Concubine but what took me by surprise was just how much I really did love this new book. I couldn't get it enough of it, or read quick enough, to discover how the ever tangled web of lies, deceit and intrigue would resolve themselves. Kate is on top form with this book and it's evident she enjoyed writing it through the superb character and plot development not to mention the extensive research needed to pull off such an incredible book. I really do think this is her most accomplished book to date as she has upped the ante with all aspects of this book. That's not to take away from any book she has written before because I have never read a bad book from her it's just this book really got underneath my skin with a strong female lead character who never ever said no, who never refused to believe what was being said to her until she satisfied herself by uncovering the truth through her own means. This was a seriously good story with so much mystery surrounding it and so many layers needing to be peeled back that I read it in two sittings so engrossed and enthralled was I with everything going on.
The Liberation has a dramatic cover befitting of the themes of the book and the thrilling events that unfold that keeps the reader guessing throughout as we never quite know who to trust. The book is set in Italy in 1945 during tumultuous times, even though World War Two may be over its effects are still being felt and will continue to do so for many years to come. On first glance at the cover I wondered who the woman was and what could she be running away from or to? It's as we begin the story that we meet Caterina Lombardi living in Sorrento with her young brother Luca and elderly grandfather Gisueppe (who is blind). Times are difficult for the family as they lost their father to a bomb on his workshop during the war and her mother Lucia ran away to Rome with a man from the town. So from the start we can sense that Caterina has been the one who has had to step into her fathers shoes in all sense of the world and try and keep the family from starving. After all life didn't revert back to normal once the war had ended, in fact from the way it was portrayed throughout the book I'd say life for the Italian people was even tougher than what they had endured previously.
Kate's last book had also been set in Italy so I questioned why she wanted to set this book once again in the same country? It soon became clear there was an even better waiting to be told story in The Liberation than that of The Italian Wife. Kate provided an eye opening storyline into a time I would have given scant thought to as Italy tries to get itself back up and running again. But beneath all the outer façade there is a lot more going on than at first meets the eye, and conspiracies and covers ups abound and the reader certainly gets a lot more than they bargained for than when they first pick up the book so much so that with every turn of the page it became increasingly hard to put down.
Caterina is a changed woman who has seen times of hardship yet she has endured and survived but her greatest test may just be around the corner. She is a talented wood inlay worker having learned her skills from her father and has taken up the reins where he unexpectedly left off. Without the beautiful masterpieces Caterina creates the family would be destitute and on the verge of starvation. It's while selling some of the boxes she has made to the American Gi's who remain in Italy to help clear things up that she encounters British born Captain Harry Fielding and American born Major Jake Parr. It may seem like a chance encounter but I felt if Caterina hadn't meet them when she did then they would have soon come calling to her workshop anyway. It starts to emerge that Caterina's father Roberto was involved in something she could never have dreamed possible that someone of his nature would find himself caught up in. Jake and Harry are part of a team attempting to recover lost or stolen piece and believe Roberto may have known more than his family thought. Of course Caterina is aghast at what she is hearing and can't believe her beloved father whom she respected and learned all she knows from could involve himself in something so corrupt. But then one wonders when times are tough just what are people forced to do to survive when everything around them is destroyed or falling apart. Once this revelation is out in the open the action just never stopped but that's what made the story flow so well. The pace didn't seem frantic and difficult to follow yet there was never any lulls or boring moments. Caterina set out to prove her fathers innocence but as things come to light she questions whether what Jake has said could actually be true?
There was very little setting up to done at the beginning, we had a brief introduction to the family and their backgrounds and then it was straight into the story and I loved this. Too often all the good parts are kept for much later in the book and then can be rushed as if the author knows they are nearing their word count and need to get things wrapped up. This didn't happen here at all Kate just kept throwing everything at Caterina as she navigates areas of Naples and Sorrento she never knew existed in her quest to uncover the truth. This wasn't all glitz and glamour instead we saw the more seedier side to things and how those who like to remain anonymous can exert such power and force in order to satisfy their own greed.
Caterina was really one of the best female characters I have read of in such a long time. She found herself, not through her own doing, caught up in something far bigger than she realised but her passion and love for her family always was her main goal and no matter what was thrown at her or what situation she found herself in she never gave up fighting until the truth would out. Right from when her mother had abandoned the family Caterina had had to become the mother figure to Luca and the woman who would run the household and now with her father gone she took this role more seriously than ever and stepped up big time when needed to do so. Caterina was so brave and courageous and never faltered when she found herself in dangerous situations but forged on ever more determined to get to the root of what exactly was going on and she earned noting but my admiration and respect in the process. Like Caterina I never quite knew who to trust throughout the story, there were lots of characters introduced and I kept wondering ohh should I be keeping a close eye on this person or could it be someone else? Count Di Marco living in his mansion on the cliff-tops of Capri with his granddaughter Leonora seemed to come from a different time altogether and the scenes set her seemed to have an other worldly quality but yet they were pivotal to to the overall storyline.
The Liberation isn't a romance story in fact far from it. It's action packed and full of mystery yet there is a slight hint of romance that didn't take away from the main storyline and to be honest I was so caught up in what was going on it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest if it was there or not so riveting were the events rapidly unfolding. Jake Parr was a good addition to the book and at times I could see he was torn between his loyalty to the job he was in Italy to do and also at the same time trying to protect Caterina from things she really shouldn't be getting involved in but in reality she had no other choice. As I mentioned there were lots of characters and by the end it became evident that everyone needs to be kept an eye no one is there as a page filler. Every character has a role to play be it major or minor and how they all come together was just brilliant. So many clues had been subtly dropped throughout the story that I really should have picked up on more than what I did but in a way it's testament to Kate's amazing writing throughout this book that I didn't.
The Liberation really was an epic story in every sense of the word, it's nearly 600 pages but to me it didn't feel that long at all. It's the book where you say to yourself just one more chapter and then you find yourself having read another 100 pages or so and it's getting later into the night. This book is a powerful read packed full of characters who you will love and hate in equal measure. There is tension, thrills, mystery, suspense, romance and so much more and through Kate's writing Italy at a time of unrest is brought to vivid life. Having finished the Liberation and found it to be one of the best books I have read this year it's really made me want to go back and reread everything she has written as she is such a marvellous author. Do yourself a favour and go buy The Liberation today I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it.
Many thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a copy of The Liberation to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.