Margaret Wurtele knows about drama. Her father helped found the Guthrie Theater. Her son died tragically in a mountain-climbing accident. And she’s wrestled with issues of religion and philosophy her entire adulthood.
All of which informs The Golden Hour, her first novel. Set in the summer of 1944, in Tuscany, the book follows Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, who has just turned 17. Save for that last part, we’re talking a bit about an avatar for Wurtele herself, who indeed owns a vineyard in California.
Then comes the war. Giovanna hides a badly wounded soldier. Naturally, she also falls in love. She’s Catholic, he turns out to be Jewish. And it’s hard to say which provides the bigger conflict, her religious anxiety or the bombs falling all around them. It’s ready-made for a movie, though Wurtele does just fine on the page, pursuing a kind of higher truth amid the facts of war and survival and love.
Here, Wurtele talks about the story behind the book.