A full year ago, The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo was one of my most anticipated books of summer 2020. Though it came out last August and is now due for release in paperback, I’m just finally getting to it now. Following a few books set in Italy – The Ancestor and The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, with Beneath a Scarlet Sky currently in process, too – I thought now would be the perfect time dive in. Although The Woman in Red is primarily set in Brazil and Uruguay, its final act takes the protagonists to Italy.
|The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo|
|Setting||Brazil; Uruguay; Italy|
|Number of Pages||371|
|Format I Read||Hardcover|
|Original Publication Date||August 4, 2020|
Experience the “epic tale of one woman’s fight . . . to create the life of her dreams” in this sweeping novel of Anita Garibaldi, a 19th century Brazilian revolutionary who loved as fiercely as she fought for freedom (Adriana Trigiani).
Destiny toys with us all, but Anita Garibaldi is a force to be reckoned with. Forced into marriage at a young age, Anita feels trapped in a union she does not want. But when she meets the leader of the Brazilian resistance, Giuseppe Garibaldi, in 1839, everything changes.
Swept into a passionate affair with the idolized mercenary, Anita’s life is suddenly consumed by the plight to liberate Southern Brazil from Portugal—a struggle that would cost thousands of lives and span almost ten bloody years. Little did she know that this first taste of revolution would lead her to cross oceans, traverse continents, and alter the course of her entire life—and the world.
At once an exhilarating adventure and an unforgettable love story, The Woman in Red is a sweeping, illuminating tale of the feminist icon who became one of the most revered historical figures of South America and Italy.
Sometimes I pick up a book that is both firmly within my comfort zone and a bit outside of it. The Woman in Red is one such book. While I love historical fiction and any story that takes me to another country (be it in South America or Europe or anywhere else), I’m generally not super inclined towards anything with too much action. Fight scenes, battle scenes, and the like aren’t my cup of tea, but strangely enough, they worked for me here.
Let me backtrack a bit. Going into it, I knew The Woman in Red would follow (real-life) revolutionaries. I was excited to read about a couple that fought for three different countries’ independence – I’m all for that! But somehow my brain didn’t make the connection that revolutionaries fighting for freedom might appear in, ahem, battle scenes. Imagine my (feeble) surprise. Even so, by that point I was fully invested in both Anita and José, and my love for them made me even enjoy these action-packed scenes.
The Woman in Red is a novel that follows one character through her entire life, giving a sweeping view of someone remarkable. Already in childhood, young Anna was a headstrong, opinionated, and brave girl. I love that her father encouraged her, even if her mother and sister never would. I felt for Anna when she was forced into a marriage she didn’t want, and later when she was spurned by all who knew her.
But happily, when Anna (Anita) meets Giuseppe Garibaldi – aka José – a whirlwind romance ensues. They have a passionate and devoted love, though they’re met with plenty of scorn by those around them. These two are way ahead of their time, which I thoroughly appreciate. They both hate the hypocrisy of enforcing chastity in women while men could be promiscuous out of wedlock. They both see how marriage is just a piece of paper; indeed, they refer to each other as husband and wife long before they marry. It was the 1840s, but they had modern ideas about relationships, love, and sex.
Both Anita and José are very likable characters, even beyond their deep love for each other and their progressive ideals. José is impassioned and earnest in his devotion to freeing the peoples of Brazil, Uruguay, and Italy. He cares about people and listens to others thoughtfully, allowing their insights to guide him even though he holds the leadership positions. For her part, Anita is remarkably involved in the battles despite being a woman and a mother. Anita is fully capable of fighting, whether at sea or on a horse. She’s smart and strategic. She’s excellent at rallying people behind a cause and getting women involved. Both Anita and José are politically minded, brave, intelligent, and compassionate – all ideal qualities for those pushing entire nations to freedom.
Another thing I loved about The Woman in Red is how international it is. Anita is Brazilian, and the first portion of the book is set in southern Brazil. But eventually she and José relocate to neighboring Uruguay, now fighting on behalf of another set of people waging a different war. Later still, it’s time for José to return to his home in Italy, and naturally, Anita joins him there. This final destination is a bit shorter lived, but it puts José back on track to complete his original mission: to unify Italy into one autonomous nation.
The Woman in Red is a powerful and inspiring story of love and war, of freedom and devotion, of progress and of loyalty.
The Woman in Red is fascinating novel about real historical figures, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful debut, and I look forward to reading Diana Giovinazzo’s next novel, Antoinette’s Sister, due out in January 2022.
About the Author
Diana Giovinazzo is the co-creator of Wine, Women and Words, a weekly literary podcast featuring interviews with authors over a glass of wine. Diana is active within her local literary community as the vice president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. The Woman in Red is her debut novel.