Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (2/19)
Steve Physioc’s “The Walls of Lucca” is a beautifully written tale that takes place in in the years following the end of World War I, when Mussolini’s rhetoric is gaining vast support and fascism is spreading like wildfire. The novel’s protagonist is Isabella Roselli, a young woman raised in a convent who uses her skills as a cook and gardener to sow seeds of love in the lives she touches.
“The Walls of Lucca” is a compelling novel not only because of the detail and writing talent of the author, but because of the connections it has to present situations in the world today. The book falls well within the genre of historical fiction, but has mirrors to contemporary life, as well. The years between World War 1 and World War II saw a rise in those who wished to create a better world for the masses. Which masses, however, was dependent upon political belief. In post-war Italy, the lines were drawn between the fascists and socialists – those who wanted to safeguard the liberties and well-being of the landowners and more wealthy citizens and those who wanted to safeguard the liberties and well-being of all, especially the lower classes who had been so often ignored. We see a lot of this same thing today in our debates over immigration, conservative vs. liberal politics, the economy and how we tax our citizens, and more. We have extremists akin to Mussolini who are gaining momentum and followers at the expense of others. There are protests and marches.
As a historian-in-training I try not to think of history as “repeating itself,” but in a lot of ways we are seeing very similar scenes in our modern day lives as we did one hundred years ago during the years when “The Walls of Lucca” takes place. Physioc has written a novel that not only captures readers with its content, but which contributes to the current social and political debates in the world today. Not everyone who picks up the book will necessarily be able to relate personally to the things that happen to the characters, but they will be able to equate the scenes and events in the books to things currently taking place which are now being written into our history.
I encourage any reader, whether they are in high school or approaching their 100th birthday, to give this book a try if they are interested in world history, hoping to gain a little insight into how our history has shaped our present situations, or who may just be looking for their next great read. “The Walls of Lucca” by Steve Physioc definitely took me by surprise, and once picked up, became increasingly harder to put down.