I GIVE IT TO YOU - Valerie Martin
Italy and USA - Past and Present
Jan is an author of historical fiction and a professor at a small college in Pennsylvania. Her fascination with Mussolini prompts a summer trip to Tuscany where she rents a small apartment at Villa Chiara, owned for many generations by the Salviati family. Upon her arrival, Jan is, at first, turned away by one of the family members before being rescued by one of the tenants on the property who is aware of her imminent arrival. The woman who owns the bulk of the villa, Beatrice Salviati Bartolo Doyle, arrives a week later, and she and Jan begin what will become a long friendship.
Beatrice is also a professor at a college, and had been, at one time, wed to an Irish American from Cape Cod. Their volatile relationship resulted in one son who is now an adult, married to a German, and living in Berlin. Since then, Beatrice has spent her winters at her home near her college in New York, and her summers at Villa Chiara. Her independent lifestyle does not fit with her son's. She and Jan spend many an hour sipping wine and discussing Beatrice's family's lives. When Beatrice tells her that one of her uncles was shot and killed in the driveway of the villa near the end of World War Two, Jan grows more curious. Beatrice laughs at Jan's interest, but her comment "I give it to you" gives Jan the impetus to do more research, with the thought of writing a novel.
The Salviati family was run by second oldest son Marco after he managed to "dispose" of his older brother Sandro, a kind, gentle young man who made the mistake of falling in love with a grocer's daughter. There was no way the Salviatis would allow such a union, and suddenly Sandro found himself in an asylum. For many years his sisters hoped to rescue him, but Marco's iron hand, and then his support of Mussolini prevented them from retrieving Sandro.
Meanwhile, the independent Beatrice decided that she wanted to pursue her education in America. She had never gotten along with her mother, so this decision made their relationship worse, and her marriage to Patrick Doyle further infuriated the elder Salviati. This strained connection between mother and daughter continued for the rest of their lives.
Jan visits Villa Chiara several more times over the years, always keeping her eyes and ears open, and working on other novels in the meantime. If and when the time comes to write about the villa, what will Beatrice think?
I GIVE IT TO YOU is a wide-ranging, multi-generational novel encompassing an old Italian family and their ups and downs, mostly centering around the lovely Villa Chiara. Jan's observations are of a group of people who, while wanting to maintain the family's integrity, exposes the reality that things are not always as they seem. The book jumps from one era to another as Jan discovers more about Beatrice and the Salvietis. Be sure to read the Epilogue!
A thoroughly engrossing novel don't miss I GIVE IT TO YOU.