I’ve read a couple of Nicky Pellegrino’s books, One Summer in Venice and Under Italian Skies, and I enjoyed both. Of course it had long been my dream to travel to Italy. It was my big bucket list item and since reading those books I’ve been able to tick it off my list as I spent just over 3wks in Italy last September / October including a fabulous week at a Tuscan villa.
Pellegrino lived in Italy (and England) before settling in New Zealand and her passion for Italy – its culture and cuisine in particular – shines through in each of her novels.
A Dream of Italy
by Nicky Pellegrino
Published by Hachette Australia
on March 26th 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Women's Fiction, Romance
For sale: historic building in the picturesque town of Montenello, southern Italy. Asking price: 1 Euro
Cloudless skies, sun-soaked countryside, delicious food... In the drowsy heat of an Italian summer, four strangers arrive in a beautiful town nestled in the mountains of Basilicata, dreaming of a new adventure. An innovative scheme by the town's Mayor has given them the chance to buy a crumbling historic building for a single Euro - on the condition that they renovate their home within three years, and help to bring new life to the close-knit local community.
Elise is desperate to get on the property ladder. Edward wants to escape a life he feels suffocated by. Mimi is determined to start afresh after her divorce. And there's one new arrival whose true motives are yet to be revealed...
For each of them, Montenello offers a different promise of happiness. But can they turn their dream of Italy into reality?
I have to say it… if someone wants to offer me an Italian villa for 1 Euro, please do so. I’d happily sell up and repair a house in true Under a Tuscan Sun style – and it would be equally calamitous and fulfilling I would think.
I’ve only read three of Pellegrino’s books but there seems to be a common theme (other than them being about Italy and food and the like) and that’s characters who are going through some sort of existential crisis, or re-evaluating their life, so it occurs to me that Pellegrino uses the setting of the book (the obvious metaphorical change our characters are needing) and the unfolding narrative to examine that feeling more closely but / and in an entertaining way.
We meet Mimi, the divorcee who’s not sure who she is now her husband has left her and sons have left home. There’s freelance writer / journalist Edward whose partner Gino is passionate about his work whereas Edward sees their life stretching out in front of him interminably.
And then there’s relief teacher Elise who’s trying to get into the property market with partner Richard but whose life has become focused on saving money so she can finally start to live the life she wants to live.
Of course there’s also 30yr old mayor Salvio Valentini who’s attempting to prove himself worthy of a title he won by default and make some sense of his own life. He’s kinda surprised how contented he is in Montenello and happy not to return to his previous life in Milan which no longer interests him, but he sees the town dying as young people move away as soon as they can.
Pellegrino always gives us some eccentric characters and here we meet Augusto, the Mayor’s offsider – an elderly man who knows everything there is to know about the town but obviously has his secrets. And then there’s Salvio’s mother who’s recently remarried, runs a restaurant (when she she wants) and is the quintessential Italian mother.
I could visualise the town of Montenello more than I would have been able to had I not visited Italy. The dry fountain at the town centre, the elderly members of the community and slow lives in a beautiful but decaying town away from the bustling tourists. Pellegrino again effortlessly places we readers amongst the local community, absorbing the local customs and culture.
I really enjoyed this and the story arc of each of our characters. I liked the introduction of the theme of the town’s curse but think I would have liked it resolved / rebutted a bit more obviously. (I like my closure!)
This is yet another feel-good book by Pellegrino and (for me) was the perfect way to spend a Saturday night.
A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.