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The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

3.8 14
by Margaret Wurtele

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In this stunning debut set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.

But when her


In this stunning debut set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.

But when her brother joins the Resistance, he asks Giovanna to hide a badly wounded fighter who is Jewish. As she nurses him back to health, she falls helplessly in love with the brave and humble Marco, who comes from as ancient and noble an Italian family as she does. They pledge their love, and then must fight a real battle against the Nazis who become more desperate and cruel as the Allies close in on them...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Wurtele’s fiction debut, Giovanna Bellini, 17, and her wealthy Italian family cope with the Nazi occupation of Tuscany in 1944. Her mother tries to pretend the war isn’t happening, and her father is keen to support whichever side appears to be winning. Giovanna, who is coming into her own as a woman, flirts with kind Nazi Lieutenant Klaus. Meanwhile, her brother, Giorgio, has deserted the Italian army and joined the resistance. She helps him covertly, but soon gets in deeper than she expected when she agrees to hide Marco, a wounded young fighter who’s also Jewish and with whom she falls in love. Wurtele, author of two memoirs, including Touching the Edge: A Mother’s Path from Loss to Life, offers a strong sense of time and place. However, despite the tragedies of wartime, there’s a certain detachment that comes from her descriptions of the beautiful Italian landscape, and the terror of wartime and the occupation don’t feel as urgent as they should. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
In Wurtele's first novel a foolish young Italian girl matures into a caring woman and develops political awareness during World War II. The daughter of wealthy Tuscan estate owners whose home has largely been requisitioned by German officers, Giovanna Bellini is a pampered 17-year-old during the German occupation in 1943. Having graduated from the local Catholic academy, she grudgingly helps the nuns tutor refugee children. Although her older brother Giorgio has run away to join the resistance, she also begins a flirtation with Klaus, a married German officer who she notes is an engineer and not a member of the SS. Wurtele meticulously delineates Giovanna's giddy crush on Klaus, as well as her conflicting self-justification and guilt while purposely keeping Klaus' motives ambiguous so that as events unfold the reader never knows his role--despite the sense of responsibility Giovanna assumes. After a nun catches the two having a rendezvous and tells Giovanna's parents, she arranges one last assignation during which Klaus gets angry when she breaks things off. Meanwhile Giorgio enlists her help in smuggling food and supplies to the partisans. Her work is supposed to be secret, yet she involves an ever-widening circle of friends in the effort. Incredibly, none leaks a word to the enemy. Through Giorgio she meets Mario, an injured partisan who shares a similar upper-class Italian background except that he happens to be Jewish. Giovanna, already doubting that she wants the conventional, safe life her loving but narrow-minded parents expect for her, becomes aware of her own ignorance about the plight of Italian Jews and of her own father's self-serving if genteel anti-Semitism. Mario's injury becomes infected. With help from an unexpected source, she finds him a safe hiding place to recover, then steals him life-saving penicillin from the secret clinic run by a neighboring marchesa, Giovanna's moral mentor. Love also blossoms, the American forces approach, but risks remain high. Giovanna is a wonderful character full of human contradictions, but the novel bogs down once she becomes a conventional noble heroine.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Margaret Wurtele and her husband split their time between Minnesota and Napa Valley, where they are the owners of Terra Valentine Winery. This is her first novel.

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The Golden Hour 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed By~JoAnne Review Copy Provided By~Publisher This is Wurtele's debut novel and it was a riveting read. The book takes place during World War II in Tuscany, Italy and you felt like you were there with the vivid descriptions of the countryside, vineyards, food, villas, farmland and churches along with the Nazis, partisans, bombings, and tales of the war. It's a story of family, honor, strength and love along with all the fears invoked by the war as well as the horrors of the Jews being rounded up and sent away on trains to the camps. The Bellini family are the main characters and you get to know them intimately. Giovanna finds herself on the outs with her family due to her beliefs and stand against the war and because of the strong feelings she comes to have for Mario, who is Jewish, and who she ultimately falls in love with. The prologue set the stage for the storyline but you nearly forgot about it due to the action that takes place throughout the book. You are reminded of it with the reading of the epilogue which gives nice closure to the story. I enjoyed the journal entries written by Mario while he was hiding from the German army. There was a happily ever after that didn't seem like it would come to bear with a few tears shed along the way. This book was reminiscent to me of The Sound of Music with the daughter thinking she is in love with the Nazi soldier as well as Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard that also had black soldiers serving in the war in Europe. This was an enjoyable read which I initially did not think it would be and I look forward to reading other books by Wurtele in the future. Favorite Quote: ...Mother had decided not to ask the Germans' permission, but simply to go ahead and set a table under the huge, spreading linden tree. If challenged, she planned to use my eighteenth birthday as an excuse and hope she could prevail upon their goodwill. I had wanted to include Violetta in the celebration, but Mother worried that even one more guest might ad to the noise and make it riskier.
bongie More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down and found it well written from beginning to end. Set in Italy the author makes a great picture of the area and I was thrown into the book and the characters, It reminded me alittle of the Soldier's Wife.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Giovanna Bellini is a very young 17 year old at the opening of this story occurring in 1944 Tuscany, Italy. The Germans have taken over Italy and confiscated the bottom floor of the Bellini home as residence for German soldiers. Giovanni really hasn't absorbed the horrors that the Nazis have perpetrated across Europe and are continuing to do so in her native land. But she is unfortunately about to learn, the hard way! First, she falls into an infatuation love affair with a German soldier and stops just short of sleeping with him when she is caught by the nuns who have taught her up to now. Then her role in the war truly begins when her partisan brother, Giorgio, talks her into collecting food and supplies for him and his colleagues secretly working against the Nazis. Her relationship with her parents begins to erode because they continue to treat her like the child she has always been. Giovanni's real taste of war begins on encountering wounded Italian soldiers, including a Jewish Italian soldier with whom she truly falls in love. She must steal and lie to complete her mission of healing and helping, learning whom she can trust to help her project and whom she must avoid. Despite one event in which her former German love mercifully lets her go after realizing who she is hiding and why, Giovanna learns of the treatment of the Jews. Her break with her parents widens on her 18th birthday in which she confronts her father with his former role in supporting the Fascists and their treatment of Jewish businessmen, as well as his unrelenting attitude to her new love and commitment to marry that man. The Golden Hour is a page turner one won't soon forget. While Giovanna appears to be quite naive for a 17 year old, one can understand her unintelligent mistakes in the vein of being a sheltered child whose parents live in an elite world that is gone forever! She grows up quickly, becoming a courageous, compassionate person who contributes much to the war effort. Finely told, Ms. Wuertele!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am using this book for one of my school projects and im very happy that i did love it i would say anyone from 6-9 grade
GreenEyedReader More than 1 year ago
INTERESTING READ WW2 reptrospect from the point of view of a daughter spendidng the last few days with her dying father and her memory of what they went through during WW2 in Italy. The Italian aspect was interesting for me having read many from other points of view usually the German.
DotDC More than 1 year ago
What a lovely love story. It was interesting to see how the people lived when the Germans occupied a small area in Italy.
AnnKY More than 1 year ago
I felt like I visited Tuscany while reading this novel. The prose is rich and the story a delight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story seemed promising but the main character is unlikable.  We never learn what happened to the nuns after the war.  The ending is predictable and there is little tension.  I thought it was boring.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was just okay. If you want a quick read, you might enjoy.