I’ve never read anything by this author as, for those who follow my blog, I’m not a massive fan of historical fiction. However, after a recommendation by a friend, and a quick glance at the blurb, I took a punt and downloaded The Liberation.
I will admit a slight dampening of my palms and an increased pulse rate when I saw the page length—560 pages according to Amazon—about double the size of my ‘go to’ novel length (give or take).
The Liberation is set in the south of Italy in 1945. The war is over and the Allied Forces have moved in to ‘fix’ a broken and bankrupt country. But not everyone is living on their wits and little else. Some well connected folks are making a fortune by plundering Italy’s spectacular resources – Artwork, marble statues, intricate wood carvings.
When Caterina Lombardi is questioned by army Major, Jake Parr, who seems to be indicating that her dead father knew more about the movement of these stolen goods, she leaps to her father’s defence. He was a good man. An honest man….wasn’t he?
As Caterina gets drawn further and further into the desperate underbelly of a starving and desperate nation, her life and the lives of those most precious to her are called into danger.
But Caterina is driven to find out the truth – even at the cost of her own life.
Let me start with the huge positives of this book. The author clearly has a wonderful knack of imagery and scene setting. She took me right there, to Italy, directly after the war. I could see everything. Hear everything. Feel everything. I could almost smell the desperation, the need, the starvation and deep-seated sadness of the Italian people. Her ability to describe the world she’s transporting you to is, in my opinion, right up there with the best of the best. Wonderful.
Caterina is a very worthy heroine. Spunky, determined, full of vitality despite her predicament and so, so tenacious. Like a dog with a bone, she gets a sniff of an attack on her family’s honour and whoosh, she’s off to defend the Lombardi name. I took to Caterina very early on, and she kept me rooting for her to the very end.
Major Jake Parr is one of those hero’s that you’d love to meet in real life. Steady, dependable, oozing with the ability to make you feel safe even as all around you is falling to pieces.
Most surprising of all for me was that I did like the historical element – especially surprising given my comment at the very beginning of this post. I put that down to Kate Furnivall’s wonderful writing. This is clearly a very talented author, and some of her descriptions made me stop and reread the line several times, such was my awe at how she’d taken words and organised them into a truly magnificent sentence. I often like to pick out a sentence which I love in my reviews, and for this novel, I’ve chosen a sentence from Jake’s POV; this describes Jake’s personality perfectly:-
“He liked facts, he liked logic, he liked to take hold of a tangled thread and inch by inch unwind it until he found what the dirty end was looped around.”
And now for the thing I didn’t like quite so much….in the main, it was the pacing of the novel which, for me, was far too slow. I almost gave up at about 30% in because I felt we weren’t getting to the crux of the story fast enough, but I pressed on – and I am glad I did. In my opinion, parts of scenes/whole scenes could have been cut in that first third without changing the overall direction of the novel or understanding of the story—but I hasten to add that some people LOVE the slow burn of a novel. Me, I prefer the pacing to be such that I can barely catch my breath.
I have read a few reviews saying that this isn’t Kate Furnivall’s best work and that, along with the wonderful way with words she has, makes me want to seek out more by this author.