The Last Masterpiece: A Novel of World War II Italy

Written by Laura Morelli
Review by Linda Harris Sittig

In spring 1943, Eva and her brother Gerhard live at their grandmother’s house in Austria, while their father oversees the storage of various art treasures deep within the nearby salt mines. Eva has been told that the Germans are saving the art from being stolen by the Allies. Across the ocean in America, Josie lives with her mother in New Haven, Connecticut. Then, Josie gets the chance to volunteer for the Women’s Army Corps and is sent overseas. She cannot, however, envision how she will play a part in thwarting Hitler’s scheme to requisition all the major artworks of Italy for his own.

As the story unfolds with the progression of WWII, German Eva and American Josie will each be dedicated to saving Italy’s most precious masterpieces. The plot races against time to see which artworks might be saved. But saved for whom? The story whisks the reader across Italy with rich descriptive language that brings the settings to life with characters so real you can feel their emotions, and scenes so raw that you’ll feel the horrors of war.

The novel is fascinating in telling a little-known story about WWII and the Women’s Army Corps. Art lovers will delight in reading about the many Italian masterpieces intended for Hitler’s museum, but rescued by the Allies. If you have seen the movie The Monuments Men, this is the other half of the story. And although the novel starts off slow, the events gather the right pace as the chapters progress. A very good read.