The Postcard from Italy is part WWII story, part a love note to Southern Italy, part family dysfunction, part romance, part mystery, part a foodie’s dream and thoroughly enjoyable. I requested to read it through NetGalley because my father served in Italy in WWII, returning home in May 1946. He was stationed fairly close to where the story takes place. Sadly, our collective family stories are those told over the years when some experience popped up in his head and we have no coherent oral history of his time there. So I want to thank Angela Petch first for her capacity to make the ordinary people in Italy and the ordinary towns during the late war period come alive, creating an atmosphere I could just about imagine my father experiencing. But what a bonus to find that Petch writes beautifully and tells a heck of a story. An addled old Italian fisherman rescues a man who falls from the sky like an angel and assures his grandson Anto that this is Roberto, the grandson believed lost at war in Africa. The stranger speaks Italian and thinks in English and has no idea who he is, experiencing flashbacks of images that tell him little. Anto and his grandfather (Nonno) are staying on remote land they own, using Trullo buildings to sit out the war. All of their family has passed and Nonno has dementia. Their city is not safe and he is doing much better in this familiar place. We fall in love with these two men, young and old, who care for “Roberto” and bring him back to health.
Meanwhile, in present day, with COVID-19 just now allowing for some travel, Susannah is still coming to grips with her beloved father’s death. Her mother died first and her only remaining family is Elsie, her father’s mother, who has always been cold and even emotionally abusive to Susi and Sylvia, the sister Elsie favors in a seriously problematic way. Susannah was involved in and has taken over her father’s shop filled with collectibles including furniture and bric a brac. Her father’s friend Maureen is also Susannah’s friend and she offers to retire from teaching and run the store so Susi can take some time to recharge. Susannah’s father Frank took an art class with Maureen and he rendered a painting of a large and fascinating house. On its back is taped the postcard that inspired the painting. It is in Italy. Susannah is helping to clear out Elsie’s house because they need to sell it to pay for her nursing home care. Taped to a bureau is another postcard with a love message. It is related to the first one. Why not try to find this beautiful place, try to figure out why her father and grandmother had these postcards and recharge at the same time? So, off she goes to a small fishing town in Italy. The novel continues, alternating between the past and the present and resolving very satisfactorily.