The Girl From Paradise Ballroom
by Alison Love
Why did you choose this book? a WWII story with an Italian connection
When did you read this book? June 2015
Who should read this book? readers of WWII fiction
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
Here is a synopsis of The Girl From Paradise Ballroom from Goodreads
The first meeting between Antonio and Olivia at the Paradise Ballroom is brief, but electric.
Years later, on the dawn of World War II, when struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron, he recognizes her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia fears Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist--but when Italy declares war on England, the impact threatens to separate them forever.
The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties amid the most devastating war in human history.
I received a copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers earlier this year, but for many reasons, put off reading it. I’m really sorry I did! Why did I put it off so long? I’m not sure, but I think it was because I read the synopsis; I was interested in the Italian connection, but the ‘brief, but electric’ meeting did nothing to make me want to read this book! Even after picking it up, the book did not draw me in immediately. It’s not that I dislike ‘romance’ but I don’t want that to be the main theme in the book. Luckily for me, in this book it was not! This is a war-time story and a story of family, and the romance just happens to be one minor part of that story.
What I really enjoyed about this story was the story of the Italian immigrant experience during WWII. While Antonio was born in Italy, his family immigrated to London while he was still a young child and he was very much assimilated. All the same, when war broke out, he was looked at with suspicion. This resonated with me because I’d heard similar stories about my Italian immigrant ancestors in the US, who were monitored as ‘enemy aliens’ during the war even though they’d entered the US over 30 years ago as young children! This alone made the book interesting to me. Beyond that, the stories of the London bombings, the rationing and deprivation of basic foods and clothing that civilians experiences really came to life for me in this book.
Though I wasn’t a fan of the romance between Antonio and Olivia, I did enjoy some of the other relationships characters formed. At times Bernard, Olivia’s husband, came off as a bit pompous, but overall I came to like him very much. In the end, he was a good-hearted person and I enjoyed his interactions with both Antonio and his sister Filomena.
The book is a little slow-paced, so if you are looking for action, this is not the book you are looking for. You will also be disappointed in the ‘romance’ if you have read the synopsis and are expecting something of epic proportions. However, if you are looking for a good family story set during WWII, this may be just your thing. I just wish it had a more appropriate synopsis!
My Rating: ★★★★½ 4½ Stars
I received a review copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.