The story of Bianca’s Vineyard spans several decades and it will enthrall you with the various colorful characters and the level of detail. Teresa Neumann has delivered a biographical novel that is so engrossing that you will feel one with the characters by the time the story ends.
Bianca is an old woman in her eighties who lives in Italy and is apprehensive about some visiting American relatives. The story takes us back in time when Bianca was a baby. In a small town called Monte De Ripa in Tuscany, a large Italian family is preparing to say farewell to their son. Edisto Bertozzi is the chosen son out of four siblings to emigrate to America. Tradition demands that Edisto marry before he leaves, but Edisto’s anarchist thoughts clash with those of his in-laws. Refusing to marry in the church, Edisto is shunned by his sweetheart. In a last minute frenzy, he marries a stranger called Arilda and goes off to Minnesota.
Edisto is soon sending money to his family, and the Bertozzis flourish thanks to this windfall. Bianca is Edisto’s niece, born to his sister Carilda. Life in America is strange and Arilda is stranger. The family faces many challenges and is shocked when Arilda abandons her kids to return to Italy. Meanwhile, war rages in Italy and across Europe. The Fascists are kind to no one and there are killings and poverty everywhere. The Bertozzi vineyard falls in a heavy battle zone. Do the Bertozzis survive the war? How do Edisto’s children fare without a mother? Does he ever go back to Italy?
What secret are the Bertozzis guarding from Edisto’s grand kids?
Bianca’s Vineyard held me captive and I read it cover to cover. At the time, I had no idea that this was a biographical story. The glimpses into Italian culture are priceless. I am sure every reader will want to visit Tuscany if not actually live there. We have had a taste of a vintner’s life through many Hollywood movies like A Walk in the Clouds. Diane Lane’s Under the Tuscan Sun gave us the taste of idyll in a sleepy Italian village. It is fascinating to read about people who live up to their 80s and 90s, and grow and drink wine all the time. The depiction of wartime will move the coldest cynic. Any one who has ever stayed away from their country will identify with the farewell scenes where an elderly father says goodbye to his son, not knowing if they will ever meet again. I can identify with this emotion very well, having gone through it multiple times.
Bianca’s Vineyard is a masterpiece that is a must read. It may be by a new author, but you should give it a chance nevertheless!