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Return to Valetto – Dominc Smith

Return to Valetto – Dominc Smith

As I loved The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, I was very keen to read this one.

Here’s the blurb …

A captivating and moving new novel from the international bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

A nearly abandoned Italian village, the family that stayed, and long-buried secrets from World War II.

On a hilltop in Umbria sits Valetto. Once a thriving village-and a hub of resistance and refuge during World War II-centuries of earthquakes, landslides and the lure of a better life have left it neglected. Only ten residents remain, including the widows Serafino – three eccentric sisters and their steely centenarian mother – who live quietly in their medieval villa. Then their nephew and grandson, Hugh, a historian, returns.

But someone else has arrived before him, laying claim to the cottage where Hugh spent his childhood summers. The unwelcome guest is the captivating and no-nonsense Elisa Tomassi, who asserts that the family patriarch, Aldo Serafino, a resistance fighter whom her own family harboured, gave the cottage to them in gratitude. Like so many threads of history, this revelation unravels a secret – a betrayal, a disappearance and an unspeakable act of violence – that has impacted Valetto across generations. Who will answer for the crimes of the past?

I enjoyed it, but not as much as The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos. It is very evocative of place, I could almost taste the food they were eating. Beautifully written, I really wanted everything to work out for Hugh, Elisa and Elisa’s mother.

A review

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The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos - Dominic Smith

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith

This novel was recommended (very highly) by several people, so when I saw it in Target for $16 I thought why not? I am so glad I did it is one of my favourite books this year!

Here is the blurb …

This is what we long for: the profound pleasure of being swept into vivid new worlds, worlds peopled by characters so intriguing and real that we can’t shake them, even long after the reading’s done. In this extraordinary novel, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, US-based Australian writer Dominic Smith brilliantly bridges the historical and the contemporary, tracking a collision course between a rare landscape by a female Dutch painter of the Golden Age, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated Australian art historian who painted a forgery of it in her youth.

In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke in Holland, the first woman to be so honoured. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain-a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the Manhattan bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she’s curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive.

As the three threads intersect with increasing and exquisite suspense, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerises while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.

I was swept away (just like the blurb said) I loved all of the different time periods – 17th century Holland, 1950s New York, and Sydney in 2000, all of the descriptions of art, painting and restoration. It was a very visual story and I would love to see it as a movie. It wasn’t just a pretty story though, it was about choices and consequences and responsibility. How lives impact on one another in both good and bad ways.

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