Devotion by London author, Louisa Young, tackles the issue of how gradually, easily, an adoring population can accept the rise of a repressive regime. It’s a must-read, well written and crafted novel that keeps you hooked in to the end.
Young’s coming-of-age love story is set in Italy and England in the 1930s, and weaves the story of Nenna and Tom as they battle the conflicting loyalties of family and the State during the rise of Mussolini’s fascist rule.
English Tom and his family visit Italian, recently rediscovered, cousin Aldo and his family. The Italian family is Jewish by heritage, and also proud Romans. Only recently freed from the Jewish ghetto in Rome, they and their neighbours welcome and adore el Duce as a saviour and unifier of Italy and its factions. (Go here to read about the buildings and places mentioned in Devotion)
New and powerful Italy
As Aldo becomes involved as an engineer in the draining of swamps and marshes and turning the land into ideal towns for Italians, he comes to replace his commitment to Judaism with a new belief in the emerging fascist state. Whatever Mussolini decrees, good and bad, is skewed in Aldo’s mind to be necessary for the advancement of the new and powerful Italy.
Slow to dawn
Tom’s understanding of what is really going on is slow to dawn, and then leaves him desperate to save the Italian cousin’s from their fate. In Tom’s words:
“There has been a thick layer of scales over your eyes —
“When are you meant to realise?
“– and each person’s scales are stuck on with different glue, and each glue is soluble in a different moment of truth. And time passes and things add up and sooner of later you look up, you grow up, and you realise. You see how tidelines have shifted and boundaries flexed; the lighting has changed, the angles tilted … strength became tyranny, determination became bullying, patriotism became xenophobia, self-respect became arrogance.”
World War II
Each of the credible, well-drawn characters confronts their own powerlessness, or failure to act, as the world creeps towards the inevitability of World War II.
The novel raises many issues, including the challenge of how we might choose to ignore uncomfortable truths or actions if our own nation should chip away at democracy. Is the practical benefit worth the obliteration of opposition?
Devotion is good?
One of those books that will stay in my mind for a long time. This book is the third in a series of three exploring the lives of the main adult characters: Nadine, Riley and Peter Locke. I am certainly now a devoted reader of Louisa Young and will be searching out her previous titles.
Heather Sylvawood, Amazon Author