Kelly Knapp's Reviews > The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
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's review
Jan 01, 2012

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Recommended to Kelly by: Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway
Recommended for: Young Adults 15 and over
Read from December 27 to 31, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: twice

If the reader looks at this story as a simple romance set against the backdrop of war, The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele is well-written and beautiful. Our heroine, Giovanna, is a 17 year old Catholic girl living in the countryside of Italy during 1943. As she begins to mature, she takes on more and more anti-war and specifically anti-Nazi activities.

The story begins fifty years after the war has ended. Giovanna goes to her father’s side as he lay dying. As she rests from the trip and visit, she begins thinking back to the summer of 1943, when German soldiers confiscated the main part of her family’s home, her brother has deserted the Italian army and joined the resistance, and Giovanna has begun to notice the opposite sex.

Of course, all of the young men from her community have been conscripted and the only males in the area are German soldiers. As Giovanna helps others teaching children, she meets a young German officer. She realizes that he is lonely and is drawn to him. He is married with a family, but this does not seem to faze her until she is caught in a compromising situation. She is sent home in disgrace.

Not wishing to sit at home every day, Giovanna joins another girl and begins working at an illegal clinic. Then she begins helping the resistance by providing staples and other supplies. Soon she meets a badly injured member of the resistance, who is also Jewish, and she finds him a place to hide and heal. As she tends to this young man, Mario, she begins to fall in love.

The author’s characters are as full-bodied as the wine from the vineyards of Italy. While the story is seen primarily from the eyes of Giovanna, we do get a taste of the feelings and events from the view of Mario, who begins keeping a journal to which the reader has access. These two characters interact with a variety of everyday people caught up in an ugly war.

However, as a Jew, who lost family during WWII, this story worries me just a little. It seems improbable that a girl from the upper class, with access to radio and newspaper, would be unaware of the events going on in the war. It is not that Giovanna has been fed constant untruths. But in the story, it says that she is unaware that the Jews were being persecuted, rounded up, and shipped off to Ghettos and concentration camps. Yet this story does not take place until 1943. Germany has been storming its way across Europe for nearly a decade and the discrimination laws have been in effect in Italy for a couple years. We see both heroes and villains but there is little true violence seen, except from a distance. And not once during the flashback or any time in the presence, does this story refer to the Jewish persecution as the Holocaust.

I realize the purpose of the story is one of romance but to down play the events of the Nazi occupations does a serious disservice to the Holocaust victims and survivors.


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