Today I have the pleasure of sharing a 4.5* review for Melinda Sue Sanchez’s outstanding WWII romance The Fisherman’s Daughter. With equal parts character development, resistance, romance, and action this is a beautifully balanced book that explores the boundaries of commitment and fortitude.
Title: The Fisherman’s Daughter
Author: Melinda Sue Sanchez
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction, General Fiction
Themes: WWII, Romance, Survival, Friendship, Italy, Resistance
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
Eighteen-year-old Marianna De’Angelis has grown up on her father’s fishing boat off the picturesque coast of Sicily, Italy. She traverses the nearby countryside on horseback and bicycle and works alongside her mother selling fish at market. It is a simple, happy life. But when WWII erupts and the Nazis overtake the country, Marianna’s peaceful world is shattered.
In the midst of chaos, Marianna encounters a handsome, young Italian soldier named Massimo Scalvone. Though she tries to keep her distance, Marianna finds herself powerfully drawn to Massimo. Yet all the while, the man she is growing to love conceals a deadly secret—a secret that ensures that in a world now ruled by politics and greed, Massimo is not free to give his heart. Devastated, Marianna immerses herself in helping her family and neighbors survive the war. But soon, merely helping is not enough, and the young woman undertakes increasingly dangerous missions for the resistance. Although Marianna and Massimo each harbor secrets, their only hope of survival is to trust each other with the truth of who they really are.
The German occupation of Italy during WWII is an area that I don’t know much about, which meant that I was able to sit back, relax, and enjoy this book as a beautiful work of fiction. The details and the imagery transport you back in time, and the story itself reads like a war time Romeo and Juliet – and lets face it, who doesn’t love a good story with some star-crossed lovers?
I really enjoyed Marianna’s spunk and her country can-do attitude. I was pleased to see her join the resistance, especially after so much talk about it early on in the book, and I was genuinely touched by the relationship that she had with her family. I found myself more drawn to those scenes where she was on the fishing boat with her father, helping in the kitchen, or running the market stall than those with Massimo as I felt that they revealed more about her character. But, I am willing the chalk this feeling up to the way in which young lovers are know to get caught up in one another, and thus cease to be individuals – something I hate to say is entirely relatable!
Massimo too, is an interesting character. Initially I was desperate to know more about why he thought Marianna was a danger to pursue, but in retrospect I’m happy that this information was held until later in the story. It created a tension and drama that moved the plot through some of the sections that were more focused on character building and setting the scene. Although I was a bit prickly towards him in the beginning, he’s definitely one of the characters that grows on you over time.
And can we talk about the food?! Seriously, I think I gained a good ten pounds reading this sucker because all I wanted to do was eat pasta and almond cake! The descriptions are so vivid and flavourful that your mouth is constantly watering and when it comes dinner time you can only think of salad and spaghetti. Now add in the fact that kitchen is truly the heart of the D’Angelis home and bam! you’re wrapped up in a sense of nostalgia that brings you back to Nonna’s house and those pizelles!
The alternating view points, even though they weren’t evenly distributed or in any particular order, did a wonderful job of telling the story of this romance from both perspectives. It was fun to see where assumptions wrecked havoc, where missed communications caused issues, and how closely tied yet so far apart to individuals can be. The writing is evocative of a different time and place, and the intensity creeps up on you ever so slowly and then refuses to let go.
The only thing that I could have wanted more of, was to know what illness ailed Marianna’s father. Although the scarcity of doctors during this time is entirely believable, the vagueness regarding his ill health left a little to be desired. Beyond this though, the cast of characters is jam packed with variety – strong and weak, male and female, horrible and heroic. There is a little something for everyone in there, but definitely a touch more for the (empowered) romantic.
Would I recommend this book? A hands down yes! War can be such a dark and challenging topic to engage with that it too easy to forget the great romances that can come out of such scenarios. Sanchez blends perfectly the trials and tribulations of occupation and the possibility for the future. Lovers of WWII and historical fiction – this is one that you don’t want to miss out on!
Many thanks to Melinda Sue Sanchez and Covenant Communications for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.