*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers you might want to avoid*
I love Italy. I love the food, the music, the culture, the joy of it. I haven’t been, but still… so that’s why I was very excited to see the opportunity to be part of the book blog tour for Fanny Blake’s An Italian Summer. So, what’s it all about? This is what the blurb says:
Sandy is in her fifties, and at a crossroads in her life: she’s a teacher and respected by her pupils, but feels she is being sidelined in favour of younger colleagues.
So when her mother dies, leaving her a sealed envelope addressed to an unknown woman in Naples, Sandy decides to head to Italy to resolve the mystery.
She books herself on to a small sightseeing trip from Rome to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, hoping to meet some like-minded people along the way. Who is the mysterious woman she is searching for? And what will Sandy learn about her mother and herself?
Sounds good, right? I really enjoyed this book. It’s a book that I would definitely pack in my suitcase if I was going on holiday this summer. But, never mind that, it’s just as good in rainy South Wales. There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel and thinks to take into consideration. I’ve said in my previous reviews that I find it hard to like the main character and that I’m always more fond of the other characters but I liked Sandy. Just like the rest of the characters, Sandy was real, her voice was something I could hear. Sandy is the type of character that’s a good egg, someone to root for in the book. Although I enjoyed Sandy, I did find myself enjoying Alice’s story a lot more. Alice was my favourite character in the book. I could see her, bouncing off the page, with her marital problems. She was the character that I was rooting for, right to the bitter end. With the plot of Sandy joining a sightseeing trip, we get a good mix of characters who are all different and unique from each other. I would love to read books about the other characters and their dysfunctional families and lives.
Of course, the setting. Going to Italy is something that I always wanted to do. I’m a massive fan of pasta and pizza and I’m itching to go. Reading this book, you are immediately transported to Italy. You feel like a part of Sandy’s sightseeing group! There are some beautiful descriptions of Italy, this one being one of my favourites:
Sandy strolled down the dusty path that led between the flowerbeds shaded by tress and shrubs, round a corner and under a bridge to arrive at a huge curved terrace brightened by pots of trailing flowers. A few people sat chatting at one of the tables to her left. She walked away from them to where a couple were leaning on the walls staring out to sea. As she got there, they left their spot and went to sit down. To her right, the cliffs dropped sheer into the clear green sea where wooden decks took the place of any beach, protected from the sea by walls of giant stone boulders. Guests from the hotel above were sprawled out on sun loungers shaded by red umbrellas. To her left was the centre of Sorrento, where the harbour was lined with pontoons mooring yachts of all sizes. Out to sea, yachts and ferries moved slowly across the Bay of Naples.
Sound stunning, doesn’t it? After reading this book, my desire to run off to Italy is even greater. Maybe next year… As I said above, there are some great characters in this novel, it’s an ensemble piece, and another main character who makes some havoc and mischief is Lia. I loved the tension between Lia and Sandy (who both teach at the same school), and I thought it was build up well throughout. And isn’t Gilly just the cutest?!
There are a number of ideas and themes in this novel, mostly about self discovery. Through her trip around Italy, Sandy learns more about herself, she’s being weighed down by her grief not only for her mother but for her late husband too. It’s a beautiful tale of discovery, about remembering the ones you love but moving on with your life at the same time too. Through the three women – Alice, Lia and Sandy – we see three different lives and three different women who are figuring out what they want to do next in their life. It’s about breaking out of your comfort zone and seizing the day, really.
This is a lovely, bittersweet, uplifting novel with some big twists throughout. If you’re going on holiday, this is the perfect book for you. If not, this book will transport you all over Italy, wherever you are. Follow Sandy and her new friends as they discover not only the gorgeous Italy, their relationships, but themselves. A truly great read.
A big thank you to Poppy at Orion for the opportunity of allowing me on the book tour and you can check out the rest of the dates and bloggers here:
Have you read An Italian Summer yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!