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Summary

At his beloved Nonno Paolo's deathbed, 15-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 15-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.

©2021 David Hewson (P)2021 W. F. Howes

Critic reviews

"Gripping and powerful, The Garden of Angels richly evokes the tension and threat of Nazi-occupied Venice. A moving and important novel.” (Tess Gerritsen, author of The Shape of Night

"Vivid and compelling. A richly wrought thriller, a love story and a warning that spans decades. I was thinking about this book for days." (Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes

What listeners say about The Garden of Angels

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent. Beautifully written, expertly narrated.

I really enjoyed this wonderful book. Set in WW2 Venice, this is the story of a young man, Paulo, who is trying to deal with the Nazi occupation of the city following the death of his parents in the allied bombing of Italy in 1943. Paulo becomes embroiled in the rescue of two Jewish, Communist partisans following their unsuccessful resistance operation in Turin. Together with a local priest and a Jewish doctor Paulo shelter the pair under the noses of local Nazi officers and Italian collaborators; but things take a dangerous turn when one of the partisans breaks cover and makes contact with local resistance fighters in order to help them carry out a plot against high level Nazis and Italian fascists.

Tragedy is never far away in this story which makes it very poignant. But there are lighter notes too; Paulo discovers more about his sexuality, finds love and a new purpose in his life. Paulo writes down his story at the end of the war and goes on to forge a successful family business. Towards the end of his life he encourages his teenage grandson Nico(who has been accused of taking part in violence against a Jewish boy) to read his memoir and learn some lessons about the treatment of Jews. In reading the memoir Nico learns about a hidden family secret, something that even his father is unaware of. Paulo has lived with this devastating secret since the war and it has shaped his adult life. The secret, in turn, shapes Nico's life and sets him on paths that ultimately lead him to confront one of his grandfather's wartime foes.

The plot twist is fantastic and I really didn't see it coming. The writing is fantastic and the plot is superbly put together. The quality of the narration puts a hugely satisfying layer of icing on a very superior cake. Do read this book! It is wonderful.

14 people found this helpful

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A difficult but important book

David Hewson's style of writing touches me deeply and Richard Armitage 's voice compliments it perfectly.
The history of mankind is,sadly, littered with the types of horrors described in this story. There are days when I think this planet would have been better if we had never evolved. "When will we ever learn ? " as the song says .
The one consolation is that there are good and brave people out there and all we can do is try to emulate them and hope that one day they will prevail. We go through our noisy lives not thinking about the horrors too much so I think it is important that we have days of remembrance and books like this to make us stop and reflect.

8 people found this helpful

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Great listen

Used one of my 2 for 1 credits for this as not sure if it was my cup of tea. Needn’t have worried it was well written and narrated and couldn’t put it down .

7 people found this helpful

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absolutely wonderful

this story kept me fascinated, angry, sad - the full gamut of emotions. ld recommend to anyone. lt twists, it turns, it gives you something of a feeling of what is right and what is wrong, and that a bad person can have a deep running river of all of those emotions

As for the Narration, Richard Armitage is, of course, brilliant. l don't know how accurate his accents are, but when he tells a story, you always know which character is speaking

More than anything, l would dearly love to hear him read the eorks of Sharon Penman. the Welsh Trilogy and of course, given his passion for Richard lll, the Cousins war set, where he could finally play Richard. They are wonderful books. l grew up with them. perhaps he could start with 'We Speak No Treason' for the deeply sensitively Sharon portays Richard, long before his remains wete found, and long before the real push to stamp on the wicked child killing legends were truly examined and for the greater part, thoroughly trashed.

4 people found this helpful

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loved this book

I really loved this book. As an Italian expat to England who has been to Venice many times I really enjoyed the setting. the story is compelling and once you start you can't put it down. The past and present stories blend together beautifully. Richard Armitage's performance brings the pages to life in a masterful way and makes the journey a deeply emotional one.

4 people found this helpful

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Another brilliant Hewson book

Having been a great fan of David Hewson’s books and avid listener to his works. I had no hesitation in buying this book. This is an intriguing and engrossing story with (and this isn’t giving anything away) a surprising and somewhat heartbreaking twist at the end.
I will definitely be listening to it multiple times.

3 people found this helpful

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Beautiful

Beautifully written and beautifully narrated . I took my time savoring the book like a very rare vintage wine

2 people found this helpful

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Thought-provoking

A well-structured plot and very well read. Can’t say I enjoyed it but glad I listened - it will stay with me for some time.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent, may we never forget

Gosh, what a page turner. I had read it in a few days, the story told by 15 year old Nico through the documents shared with him by his beloved grandfather unfolds gradually, taking the reader to Venice in WW2.
So often on my visits to Venice I have considered what must have life been like during the occupation, this story was so enlightening! Although a work of fiction there is so much research and fact in its pages setting the backdrop that is an insight into that time and its people. Thank you David Hewson.

2 people found this helpful

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  • TB
  • 17-03-22

Characters didn't invite empathy

On the face of it, this book seemed a good choice for me. However, it was very slow to get moving, and none of the characters was interesting enough to engage the listener. I almost gave up a number of times, but persevered, and the book did improve towards the end. It didn't, for me, merit the time spent on it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • U. Campanella
  • 30-01-21

Excellent Story, Expert Narration, A Winning Combo!

Give Armitage the phone book and he’d make it a fantastic listen. But give him a great story and then you’ll have a winner.
Bravo Mr. Hewson for bringing to life such a great story during such hard times in human history. And thank you Mr. Armitage for breathing life into it.
A great listen!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Betsy Fowler
  • 07-02-21

Venetian thriller from the Second World War

Author Hewson likes a twist in his tales and this one is no exception. He knows how to evoke the spirit of places, and their historical details. Richard Armitage brings the characters to life as he always does, but I did feel that some parts of the story were too drawn out. Nonetheless this is very entertaining and well worth a listen.

3 people found this helpful

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  • joseph strickland
  • 28-02-21

Intense WWII drama that centers around Venice.

If you love historical fiction, this book is for you. I've read alot about France during the war, but never knew much about what happened in Italy. This story is a comprehensive look at the atrocities and tragedies that were taking shape in Italy during this time. It's a deep, dark drama about love, betrayal and what people do when faced with horrendous circumstances. The narration is superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anna R.
  • 21-07-22

Wonderful story, perfect narration

Loved every minute. Great ending. As another reviewer said, the phone book would be a terrific read if Richard Armitage was the reader.

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  • K. Davis
  • 21-06-22

love/hate

At times, I didn't think I would finish. I did see it through. I did cry at the end. I dont think I will ever listen again, but I'm glad I did at least once.

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  • Martha
  • 30-10-21

Best Story in Ages

My Audible listening has found its way to stories of the struggles of WW2 throughout the world. This unique story of a unique place does not disappoint. Worth a careful listen. Vocal acting is perfect!

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  • Julie B
  • 13-07-21

Emotional story

This was an emotional story that was almost haunting. I really enjoyed it. Great performance by the narrator as well.

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  • K
  • 14-06-21

Beautifully told

A beautifully rich telling of a difficult part of history. the narration is superb. the story nuanced, layered, and full of realism.

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  • Ester vdD
  • 01-06-21

Intriguing...

I loved the story, I was intrigued by the story of Paolo and how it would unfold, couldn’t stop listening. Although I’m not into warstories this one was interesting and gave an idea of the war in Venice.
The narration by Richard Armitage was great! The different voices give each character their own personality.

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  • suzanne h.
  • 22-05-21

Superb

The beauty of Venice is intertwined with the horrors of the Nazi occupation in 1943. It is full of suspense, I could not stop listening to this book. Every detail is important. It is superbly narrated by Richard Armitage.
What a pleasure. I recommend this book for the Booker Prize