Can you tell us a little about your family story that inspired Echoes of War?
TB: I was inspired by an old black and white photo of my Italian grandfather in military uniform. I discovered that he’d fought with the Royal Italian Army in the Italian wars with Ethiopia and Albania, in the late 1930s prior to World War Two. I’d had no idea my grandfather had been to war in Africa and it sparked my imagination. I wanted to learn more about life for my grandparents and their family in Calabria, southern Italy at that time.
The Italian setting is vividly beautiful – how did you go about bringing that to life?
TB: Although my trip to Italy was cancelled due to COVID, I was able to draw on my childhood memories of visiting Calabria with my family in conjunction with photos from more recent visits by family members and their recollections of life there. I also researched the culture and geography and looked at photos and descriptions of the region online.
And who is your protagonist Giulia Tallariti?
TB: Giulia is a feisty and spirited young woman trying to find her place in the world. She adores her family but struggles against her strict and traditional upbringing. She wants to live a big life and follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a healer with the self-belief and strength to follow her own path and her dreams in a world dominated and ruled by men.
What surprising things did you discover about Mussolini while writing the book?
TB: I was surprised to learn how many wars Mussolini sent Italian soldiers to in the lead up to World War Two – Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War and Albania. He wanted to create a second Roman Empire and make Italy great once more. I was fascinated to learn that despite leading a fascist government, he believed that the Catholic Church was instrumental in his vision. But his relationship with the Vatican was turbulent and he also tried to take away some of the Church’s authority with the Jewish race laws in 1938, prohibiting marriage between Jews and non- Jews, even when performed by the Catholic Church.
For a limited time at Dymocks, if you buy Echoes of War you get a free copy of Letters From Berlin* - can you give us your elevator pitch for that novel…
TB: Letters from Berlin is inspired by the life of my German grandmother’s cousin and follows the story of a ‘mixed marriage’ family, Jewish and German, during World War Two Germany and into the Soviet occupation.
When Susie’s adoptive mother is finally placed on the official register of Jews, she accepts the offer of help from a family friend and influential Nazi, desperate to protect her family including the man she loves, in any way she can. But as she enters the world of the Nazi elite and turns to the resistance to thwart the Nazis, the risk to those she loves escalates and Susie learns how far she’ll have to go to keep her family safe.
*Strictly while stocks last. Available in store and online. Limit of one copy of Letters from Berlin per customer.
Echoes of War by Tania Blanchard is available in store and online now.