An Italian Summer by Fanny Blake - book review
They say that love makes the world go round but relationships '“ in all their many forms '“ are surely what keep us humans ticking.
Author Fanny Blake has an eagle eye for the complexity of relationships and it shows in her beautifully observant novels… timeless classics which explore real life, real people and the very human hopes, fears, dreams and dramas that we can all recognise.
In her uplifting and heartwarming new novel, we are treated to a glorious tour of southern Italy in the company of a fifty-something teacher facing a crossroads in her life after widowhood and the recent death of her mother.
Filled with Blake’s wit, compassion, insight and intelligence, An Italian Summer has an intriguing mystery at its heart but this is also a tale of friendship, family secrets and second chances, and a delightful sunshine adventure in one of the most alluring corners of Europe.
Sandy Johnson always had an uneasy relationship with her mother. Packed off to boarding school, Sandy envied her school friends with their ‘warm kitchens and mothers who were always there for them.’
On her deathbed, the old lady hands Sandy a sealed envelope addressed simply to Anna Viglieri, Naples, and asks Sandy to ‘find her.’ Sandy has no idea who the woman is but she becomes determined to track her down.
Sandy has still not fully come to terms with the death of her husband Matthew three years ago but when summer arrives, she leaves behind her teaching job at a private school in St Albans – where she suspects she is being sidelined in favour of younger colleagues – and books herself on to ‘A Taste of Italy’ sightseeing trip from Rome to Naples and the Amalfi coast.
The two-week break has a double purpose… to find the mysterious Anna, and work out how serious her feelings are for her boyfriend Steven and decide whether she really is ready to commit to another man.
It’s daunting to be heading off alone but Sandy hopes to meet some like-minded people along the way. However, there’s a shock in store at the first get-together and as she gets to know the rest of the tour group she discovers her fellow travellers have issues of their own.
And when she gets to Naples will she finally find the mysterious Anna?
Blake has her finger firmly on the pulse of women of a certain age, an ability to hone in on the guilt, the anxieties, the uncertainties and the added multi-generational responsibilities that come with being middle-aged.
In An Italian Summer, she fields a cast of fascinating characters – each with their own agenda, each with their own hidden insecurities and each forging new friendships and understandings as they enjoy iconic Italian landmarks like the Colosseum and Spanish Steps in Rome, the stunning Amalfi coast and the ancient mystique of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The holiday becomes an opportunity to break with the past, find unexpected romance and embark on new beginnings… and all set against a breathtaking backdrop. The perfect summer read!
(Orion, paperback, £8.99)