ARC AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: The Garden of Angels by David Hewson


Publication Date: January 28, 2021
Format: Audio
Genre:  Historical Mystery Thriller
Narrator: Richard Armitage

Publisher: WF Howes Ltd         
12 hours 40 min
Buy: Kindle | Audio


At his beloved Nonno Paolo's deathbed, fifteen-year-old Nico receives a gift that will change his life forever: a yellowing manuscript which tells the haunting, twisty tale of what really happened to his grandfather in Nazi-occupied Venice in 1943.

The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice's Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he's waited his whole life to share.

When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches - earning him a week's suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .

Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather's life: when Paolo's support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city's underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can't stop reading - but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.


Nico's grandfather, Paolo, entrusts to him a dark secret, a secret that he's kept all his life.  Each day that Nico goes to visit his grandfather, he gives him an envelope containing part of a story of his life.  Its a story of love, strength, resilience and also a cautionary tale.  

Set in Venice as the Nazi's occupied Italy as the Jews are rounded up and life as everyone knows it changes drastically, Paolo is asked to hide 2 Jews who are trying to flee, a brother and sister.  The brother is injured and needs a safe place to rest before they flee.  In the meantime, Paolo is struggling to fulfill an order for the velvet that his family is known for.  Unfortunately they only have one weaver and not enough time.

After Paolo's death Nico doesn't know what to do with the story and is afraid to learn the ending.  He can't face what he knows is written in the final words of his beloved grandfather, so he flees Italy.  He goes to university in England and doesn't return until a phone call from his father in hospital brings him back to a world much changed from when he was there as a young man.  Once again hatred and intolerance is rising and as his family's velvet workshop is transformed into loft apartments that he is tasked with dedicating.  With Nano Paolo's story ringing in his ears he realizes what he must do.

Beautifully written and narrated I found myself transported to 1943 Italy, I could hear the whispers of the looms as they worked, and feel the passion of first love. The fear of being discovered, and the bravery to stand up.  Such a timely novel in a time of rising hatred and intolerance across the world for immigrants and everyone different.  This is also a beautiful tribute to the Italian jews and others who lost their lives to the Nazi's during the occupation.

I find myself coming back to this story and hearing the whisper of the looms when I least expect it.  

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