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The Way Back to Florence

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  354 ratings  ·  84 reviews
In 1937 Freddie (English), Isabella (Italian) and Oskar (a German Jew) become friends at an art school in Florence where they are taught by the dictatorial but magus-like Maestro and his sinister fascist assistant Fosco. When war arrives Freddie returns to England to become the pilot of a Lancaster bomber. Oskar, now a dancer, has moved to Paris where he escapes the 1942 r ...more
Paperback, 492 pages
Published June 25th 2015 by Cheyne Walk (first published June 17th 2015)
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Tiffany S YES!!! I think it would have helped if it identified the viewpoint the chapter was from as well. It would say the month and year but a few chapters to…moreYES!!! I think it would have helped if it identified the viewpoint the chapter was from as well. It would say the month and year but a few chapters took me at least a paragraph or two to go OOOH this is a Freddie chapter!(less)

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I read this in situ so to speak (often in a hammock outside a Tuscan farmhouse overlooking a tiered olive grove) and I loved it from start to finish. Alex Preston calls it, “a quite brilliant novel of love, art and war told with extraordinary delicacy and poise” and I fully agree. The novel essentially consists of three narratives, sown together with fluid artistry, and the chapters are all very short, rather like All the Light We Cannot See.

The overriding intent here is on narrative drive, eng
Violet wells
Henry James once said novels deal with the “palpable present-intimate” and the two novels I’ve been reading this month, this and The Night Watch, are both massively successful at enthralling through an intimacy of observation. Both novels are set during WW2, both are superbly researched, soundly constructed, character-driven and intelligently eloquent without indulging in any literary sleights of hand or innovative technique. In short, both are excellent examples of riveting straightforward stor ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Update: $1.99 Kindle sale right now!!! This book is WONDERFUL!!!!!!
Terrific WWII Historical fiction book whom I first learned from Violet.!

Florence, a renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany is one of the most popular travel
cities in Italy. I haven't had the pleasure... Yet?/!

On the front cover of the paperback book "The Way Back to Florence", by Glenn Haybittle
is a quote by author Alex Preston of "In Love and War",which captures the beauty and essence.
"A quite brilliant n
Angela M
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure why, but I didn't always think of Italy when I thought about WWII. It wasn't until several years ago while on a vacation in Italy that I realized the impact . We visited Monte Cassino and graves of US soldiers there . But I have to admit that I didn't know very much about Florence and the war. So this book brought yet another facet of the war with its beautifully written depiction of the effect of the war on Florence and a group of characters living there . I really liked the descri ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
They first met in Florence at an art class given by a renowned painter known as the maestro. Isabelle, Freddy and Oskar became friends though only Isabelle shows any promise as a painter. Their lives would become entwined in different ways through the war, as Freddy would return to England and pi!ot a Lancaster for the RAF. Isabelle would remain in Florence, her home, and Oskar as a Jew would take a different path. A dangerous time for all as the Nazis move into Italy.

I started reading this and
Once I got into this novel, which didn't take long, I simply couldn’t put it down and I have to confess the ending brought tears to my eyes. I’d never heard of it until a friend here on Goodreads gave it a gushing review and my interest was piqued.

The scope of this novel is hugely impressive. We are taken on bombing raids to Berlin, into the world of art theft in Florence, to partisan battles in the hills of Tuscany, to the offices of the secret police in Florence, to Italian internment camps a
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The Way Back to Florence started off as nothing special, but then it really grew on me. The story takes place during WWII and mostly in Florence. Italy was a complicated place during WWII, and this novel takes on those complications and their consequent human emotions. The initial focus is on Isabella and Freddy, a young married couple. Isabella is Italian and an aspiring artist. Freddy is British and Oxford educated. The war soon separates them. Isabella stays in Florence, while Freddy becomes ...more
4.5 stars.
Often I wonder how I would have behaved during World War Two, especially in Nazi occupied countries. I imagine we all do. Would I have been brave enough to help people in need, to actively resist the Nazis? Or would I have just sat back and looked after my own skin and that of my family? In large part I suspect circumstances decide these things and that’s what happens to the two Italian women in this novel, neither of whom are uncommonly brave or politically motivated but both of whom
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Violet wells
A truly satisfying read about the experience of World War 2 in Italy from the perspective of an artist, Isabella, and her English husband, Freddie, who met her as an art student in Florence and now captains a bomber crew with the RAF. Oskar is another key character, a close friend from their student days who is a German Jew now returning to Italy with his young daughter Esme to escape the Holocaust. The strength of these characters bonds of love sustains them in the face of the chaos and destruc ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good first effort by the author. There are some gaps and if you purchase this book expecting a lot about art, forgeries to fool Nazi's etc. you will be greatly disappointed since art is about 1% of this book.
That being said, this book made me feel lousy about my Italian heritage. I know, I know. I have been there numerous times, and Florence is one of my favorite cities, but this book really brings the action of the Fascists to the fore and shows what a bunch of brutes they were. The firs
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If someone asked me to describe this books I would say it is poetic, passionate, and fast paced. It went by way to quickly for my liking, I wanted it to never end. In this historical fiction novel you follow the lives of  Freddie, Isabella, and Oskar against the backdrop of  in Italy during World War II. What I enjoyed the most is that their personalities are distinct, they do not feel generic at all. Isabella is a strong individual, she puts herself in so much danger to help others as well as p ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, italy, uk, 21st-century

Florence, 1943. Isabella is painting in her riverside studio when the bombers arrive. “She lays down a brushstroke, smudges it delicately with her finger. There is paint beneath her nails, ingrained in the lines on her palms. Her smock is a grubby rainbow of fused colours. She wipes her brushes on the blue fabric. Everything in the studio is peppered with pigment, smeared with oil paint, sticky with resins. The coins and banknotes in her purse often have alizarin crimson or raw umber fingerprin
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The WW2 experiences of three friends who meet at an art school in Florence prior to the war. Freddie joins Bomber Command; his wife Isabella remains in Italy; Oskar, a German Jew, narrowly escapes the Gestapo in Paris and makes his way to Italy with his young daughter. It’s a well written and engaging novel mostly set in a convincingly evoked Italy during world war two. Structurally it’s similar to All the Light We Cannot See – lots of short chapters with alternating characters – a format that w ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an impassioned story of love and brutality, told from multiple points of view over a span of several years, before and during WW II.
Isabella and Freddie had barely begun their life together when war separated them.
What most struck a chord with me was the character Oskar, and his love for his daughter Esme. How do you teach a child so young that the "bad people" want to hurt you just because you are Jewish? To hide who you are for your own safety but to not give up hope. There was so m
Here is a novel of stature, and a living portrait of a city. By means of fresh and arresting writing that engages all of the senses, it immerses the reader totally in another time and place. Beautiful Florence, ravaged by the second world war. Its ancient bridges, mined by the Wehrmacht and patrolled by Fascist militia, await their bombardment by The Allies. Jews are on the run, informers are rife, secret police and torturers lurk, and voluble Italians no longer finish their sentences, but live ...more
Will Ansbacher
First, let’s say this - it’s a great story about five young people, beginning in Florence before WW2 when three of them were in art school, and ending there in 1946. Freddie returns to England and becomes an RAF bomber pilot, his wife Isabella and friend Marina remain in Florence where their lives are a series of compromises to allow them to survive Nazi occupation, while Francesco and Oskar with his 6-year-old daughter Esme, are Jewish and spend much of the time hiding or on the run. The thread ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
"That there's a deep compulsion in the human spirit to overcome the selfish antics of the I in us. War grindingly, shifts one's perspective from I to we. Never again will many of us feel our lives so interpedently entwined as we do in these times of war. Never again will someone else's loss or gain become such an integral part of our own store of resources."

It is passages such as that which made me loveThe Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle. It was a great coincidence that I found this wond
Roger Brunyate
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ww2, holocaust
Was Even WW2 This Long?

For me to read a book almost all the way through (78% on my Kindle) but then give up must say something, but I am still working out what. I was quite involved in the beginning, certainly. The time is the late 1930s. Isabella is a promising young Italian painter, studying in the Florence studio of an artist referred to only as Maestro. Being an art historian by training, I appreciated the atmosphere, and the technical details were mostly convincing. She falls in love with
BAM Endlessly Booked
Thank you to Glenn Haybittle, Cheyne Walk, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Haybittle immediately sucks the reader into the love story from the first: a thunderstorm, a couple drunk and splashing in the puddles, but when it comes to the big reveal one of them fails miserably. So Freddie leaves to fly planes for the Allies and Isabella paints like her life depends on it. For the next several years the two have no contact with each other, which leads
Mary Higginson
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Way Back to Florence. Glenn Haybittle.
Utterly gripping, this novel transports you back to war ravaged Europe - in particular the Florence of Mussolini which draws together the threads of the story.
Isabella an Italian artist remains there painting and hoping to see her English husband Freddie again. Freddie studied with Isabella but returned to England when Italy declared war on her. He now pilots one of the Lancaster bombers V Vicky that will disgorge its load on Florence.
At times sensitiv
Caroline Scott
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
*Copy received from publisher in return for an honest review*

This novel opens in September 1943, as allied bombers target Florence:

'The air raid siren begins shrieking and before long she hears the now familiar low drone of planes in the sky. The grumbling noise gains in intensity. It becomes a sensation in the body, an irritation on the skin, like a feeding insect. The window frames rattle. All the jars of primers and pigments and sun-thickened oils on the tables and shelves jingle. Circles
The Way Back to Florence is about three friends who met during a painting class in Florence, Italy, before the WWII began. Isabella was the only woman in Maestro's workshop. Before tje war begins, Isabella and the English Freddie, who was also studying painting, get married. One of their friend and important character in this novel is Oskar, a German Jew, who ends up moving to Paris to become a dancer.

Told via alternating points of view chapters, THe Way Back to Florence was The story is told vi
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british, italy, artists, love
The demeaning sacrifices women have to make in Mussolini’s Italy for social advancement are early on highlighted when Isabella, an aspiring young artist, is told the atelier does not admit women. Except Maestro, the teacher, is willing to make an exception for her if she agrees to pose nude for him as Eve. Thus begins the fraught and fateful relationship she will share with Maestro through the war years that sees her constrained to forge a famous old master painting for the SS.

This is a novel ab
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t put this down. The author did a fabulous job of making me care for the wellbeing of his characters, whether it was Freddie, the pilot of a Lancaster Bomber, his new wife Isabella, a painter in Florence who becomes involved with both the resistance and the SS, or their friend Oskar, a German Jew and a dancer (he studied under the man who taught Pina Bausch) and his little girl, Esme. I especially loved the Bomber Command sections – the operations over Germany were so vividly described ...more
Julia Sutton
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For months I had been unable to finish reading anything, until I opened this first novel by Glenn Haybittle. Here is the novel that will keep you reading through the night.
A novel of stature, and a living portrait of a city. By means of fresh and arresting writing that engages all of the senses, it immerses the reader totally in another time and place. Beautiful Florence, ravaged by the second world war. Its ancient bridges, mined by the Wehrmacht and patrolled by Fascist militia, await their bo
Rob Kitchin
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Way Back to Florence is a tale of love during war between an Italian woman and English man, and between a father and his young daughter. Isabella and Freddie are separated by the Second World War, Isabella staying in Florence, while Freddie returns to England to pilot a bomber. Their friend, Oskar, a dancer and German Jew, and his daughter, Esme, escape the Paris round ups and head south to Italy. While Freddie experiences the horrors of flying through flak and evading fighters, Isabella is ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laying down my kindle after finishing the last pages of The Way Back to Florence, I am astonished that I am still sitting on the couch in my living room and not in a war torn Florence celebrating the end of the war. So realistic are the words penned down by Haybittle that you will be spending the duration of the novel shoulder to shoulder with the characters witnessing the suffering, destruction and adrenalin rush first hand. It is hard for me to grasp the fact that this is the debut novel of Ha ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
The historical fiction market has been awash with WW2 stories over the past few years, and I have read my share of them. But, this book stands apart from the others in my mind. It retains all of the elements integral to novels of that period: nasty nazis; the horror of the holocaust; and the personal pain that ensues from war.

The beauty of this book for me was the loyalty of friends amid the struggle, and the instinct of survival even during the most harrowing and horrific circumstances. There w
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to all of you for recommending this amazing book. Why is it that even though we've read hundreds of books about WWII, we can feel the horror and terror of it so freshly in this novel. Personally, I think it's due to the excellent writing skills of the author. This is an intelligent novel with precise descriptive writing. The reader feels as though he or she is a part of the sickening reality and I felt an actual terror that made me put the book down and walk away. The terror was so real a ...more
Lecy Beth
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction based in the time of World War II. It's the tale of three individuals from very different backgrounds and circumstances who meet and become friends in art school in Florence. When the war starts, they each have to go their separate ways but they all fight to make their way back to Florence and each other again.

This book has all the best qualities of a great novel. The plot sweeps you off your feet, the characters are well-developed and you easily
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