Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We'll Never Tell Them by Fiorella de Maria

A masterful story from beginning to end, We'll Never Tell Them has many layers and stories within stories. Our two main characters are Kristjana and Leo, who are kindred spirits separated by years and history. The background is World War I and World War II for the story told by Leo about his mother Liljana. Liljana has had a very hard life growing up in Malta with an abusive mother with mental illness and moving to England where she finds her first family through her friend Emily. She meets the love her life as a nurse during WWI.
Kristjana is a nurse who has run away from her life in England back to Jerusalem where she interned during college. Her life parallels Liljana's in that she is also from Malta and moved to England. Leo is her patient dying of cancer and wanting to pass on the history of his family through storytelling. Kristjana is learning about herself and her life through Leo's story of his mother, Liljana.
We'll Never Tell  is written from the point of view of the Kristjana character. She matures and decides what direction to take her life. The overarching story is about love and loss as seen through World Wars I and II. This points to what is important in our humanity and dignity. There is strong family themes of what makes a close family and what keeps us apart. James Hampton stands out as a constant character throughout Liljana's story. He is a lawyer that Liljana meets as a child and has a reoccurring role and plays a significant unexpected part in Liljana's life.  The descriptions really transport you to a different time and the reader easily becomes invested in the story of Liljana. The story is tragic and involves some adult topics but nothing is explicit. The modern day character of Kristjana is a little harder to identify with for me but I am still interested in what will happen with her as you follow her thoughts and struggles in modern day. There is a sense of hope at the end and this book that makes you want to know about the history of war torn England.
I would recommend this book to you as a fictional story that will keep you reading to the end. Fiorella de Maria, the author, is a winner of the National Book Prize of Malta for her previous book The Cassandra Curse. She was born in Italy of Maltese parents and this gives the story authenticity. In this story of We'll Never Tell Them there is a connection between Kristjana and Liljana and perhaps even between Liljana and the reader. I will not spoil the ending but let you discover it.

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