The Sunflower Girl

Written by Rosanna Chiofalo
Review by Julia C. Fischer

Rosanna Chiofalo’s latest novel, The Sunflower Girl, sweeps the reader into the blossoming Tuscan countryside in a dual narrative: one part of the story takes place during World War II and the other in the 1970s. In 1940s German-occupied Tuscany, Maria Rossi is in her late twenties. Maria falls in love with Franco Ferraro, a member of the Italian Resistance, and she joins the cause. The two marry and have a child, Anabella, but the devastation of WWII will soon affect the young family.

In the early 1970s, Anabella is a young woman who has been confined for most of her life to her mother’s rose farm in Tuscany. In a rare solo excursion to Siena to sell flowers, Anabella meets the handsome artist, Dante, who begins painting her. But Anabella will have to go against her mother’s wishes and leave the only life she has ever known if she wants to be with Dante. At the same time, Maria must come to grips with the past and find a way to reconnect with Anabella or else she will lose her daughter forever.

The Sunflower Girl deals with the trauma of war and grief. To move forward, Maria must contend with the aftermath of WWII. Chiofalo also tackles the complicated mother-daughter relationship, with Anabella wanting to break away from Maria and have her own life. Chiofalo’s novel will especially appeal to lovers of Italy, as the author takes the reader to Siena, Florence, and the Tuscan countryside. Chiofalo also vividly describes food, from the sunflower seeds that Anabella loves to Maria’s delectable manicotti. Overall, The Sunflower Girl is an easy and enjoyable summer read that grapples with the serious issue of dealing with the ramifications of World War II.