I am thrilled to say author Victoria Springfield has come to take over my blog today.
Fasten your armchair seatbelts because we are off to Italy with Victoria and 6 of her favourite books which are set out there. By the time you finish this post you will definitely have an Italian vibe going on.
Bella! – Victoria Springfield introduces 6 beautiful books set in Italy:
The one that makes me want to jump on a plane – A Valley in Italy – Lisa St Aubin de Terán
I first discovered Lisa’s writing when a teenage schoolfriend claimed that a strange man had approached her in the street and offered her the lead part in a proposed adaptation of St Aubin de Terán’s autobiographical novel The Slow Train to Milan. Not surprisingly my classmate never made it to Hollywood, but it is strange that no one has yet turned that fascinating book into a movie.
Lisa has produced several novels and anthologies but it’s her memoirs which I like the most. I love Off the Rails which documents her travels in Europe and South America but the book which transports me straight to Italy is her 1994 memoir A Valley in Italy. Lisa and her then-husband Robbie paid the deposit on a huge near-derelict palazzo in Umbria within an hour of setting eyes on it. As team of local workmen struggle against the odds to create a functioning home from this romantic ruin, Lisa’s family are gradually welcomed into the close-knit community of Sant’ Orsola. Their integration is eased by the villager’s love for their little son, Allie and the local boys’ interest in Lisa’s sultry teenage daughter, Iseult.
Lisa is a wonderful writer whose descriptive powers will have you longing to hang out at the local bar and join in the village festivals – whilst steering clear of the homebrewed walnut liqueur.
The one with the character who won me over – One Summer in Venice – Nicky Pellegrino
I have only read a couple of Nicky Pellegrino’s novels, but the rest are definitely on my to-read pile. Addolorata’s life in London is unravelling: her restaurant receives an unflattering review from an influential critic; her relationship with husband, Eden is falling apart and her relationship with her daughter is tricky. Addolorata flies to Venice for a short break but is soon embroiled in the lives of eccentric septuagenarian, Coco and her circle of friends. Addolorata ends up staying for the summer and is determined to return to England with a list of the things that make her happy, but first she must get to know herself. This is an enjoyable read steeped in the magic of Venice with a relatable, flawed heroine and a lovely message about the nature of happiness.
The one that made me wobble – The Lemon Tree Hotel – Rosanna Ley
I’ve read many books that are better than anything I could hope to write. Normally I’m happy to accept this – but this time it was different. After sending off my debut novel, The Italian Holiday, I was browsing in the local library looking for something relaxing to read when Rosanna Ley’s book caught my eye.
Rosanna seamlessly weaves together the tensions and secrets within the family who run The Lemon Tree Hotel. Their lives are further complicated by the disruptive appearance of two intriguing guests: hotel owner Chiara’s first love who she has not seen for forty years and a mysterious young man who has an unusual interest in the hotel’s history. The fictional hotel overlooks the real-life village of Vernazza, one of the five villages which make up Italy’s famous Cinque Terre. Vernazza is just the sort of place I like to write about, moreover the interlinking romances, characters of all ages and sense of mystery were elements I’d tried to include in my own work. Instead of relaxing me, Rosanna’s book caused me to panic. How could my novel match up to this? I had already sent off The Italian Holiday – I had to hope someone would want to publish it – and that one day I would write something as good as this.
The one I couldn’t put down – My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
A friend lent me the first of the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante and like so many other readers I was immediately hooked. The claustrophobic atmosphere of downtown Naples was beautifully evoked by the stunning cinematography of the Sky Atlantic series of the same name, but despite the liberal use of voiceovers, the TV series could only partially capture the inner voice of Elena (Lenu) as she wrestles with the complex feelings aroused by her love/hate relationship with her intellectual and emotional rival Lila. It’s really worth reading the books to get to know all the different characters. I’ve visited Naples on several occasions so I had a particular interest in reading the whole quartet, but I defy anyone to finish reading My Brilliant Friend without ordering the next in the series, not least because the author ends the first book on a real cliff-hanger.
The one that pulls the heartstrings – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis – Giorgio Bassani
This beautiful book isn’t a quick read; it’s a classic of Italian literature which explores first love, memories and what it means to belong – to a family, to a city, to a social class and to a racial group. The narrator has long been fascinated by the wealthy Finzi-Contini family, particularly their intriguing daughter, Micòl. The families are separated by a social divide but when the Italian fascist government apes Hitler’s Germany by bringing in racial laws in 1938 the divisions between the elusive Finzi-Continis and the ordinary Jewish families in Ferrara melt away and the narrator is drawn into the life of Micòl, her brother Alberto and his friend, the communist sympathiser, Giampi Malnate. It’s a tale of unrequited love, missed opportunities and longing, all overshadowed by the forthcoming war in Europe and the uncertain fate awaiting Ferrara’s Jewish population.
The one that embodies Italian glamour – Sophia: Living and Loving – A.E. Hotchner
Sophia Loren’s acting career has encompassed everything from romcoms with Cary Grant to her heart-rending, Oscar-winning turn in the La Ciociara (renamed Two Women for the subtitled version). Despite being credited to the author A.E. Hotchner, this book is written in the first person, mostly in Sophia’s own voice interspersed with reminiscences from her husband, friends and family. It’s a fascinating read, covering her wartime childhood at a time when her illegitimacy was a shameful stigma; the heyday of cinema; her famous co-stars and her marriage to her mentor Carlo Ponti, 22 years her senior and divorced, which shocked the Catholic church. Sophia is now 86 years old and still making films, so this book (published in 1979) only covers the first half of her life – but what a life!
Victoria Springfield writes contemporary women’s fiction immersed in the sights, sounds and flavours of Italy. Her feel-good stories follow unforgettable characters of all ages as they find adventure, friendship and romance. After many years in London, she now lives in Kent with her husband in a house by the river. Victoria joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019. In 2020 she signed a two-book deal with Orion Dash. The Italian Holiday, set on The Amalfi Coast is out now. A second book, set in a horse riding centre in Tuscany, will be published in August.
Blurb from publisher for The Italian Holiday:
Italy was Bluebell’s dream destination, but taking her granny’s place on the Loving and Knitting magazine competition holiday she’d won wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. For one thing she didn’t knit and for the other…well, being single probably discounted her from the love category too. But a free holiday is a free holiday and it’s the perfect escape from her lacklustre life.
Michela didn’t think she’d be returning home to Italy so soon, a new job at her cousin’s restaurant on the harbour of Positano was a dream gig, miles away from the grey London clouds. This time though, she vowed not to fall into old habits, Stefano was the past and now her future in her old hometown beckoned.
But under the Italian skies a whole host of possibilities await and maybe happy-ever-after is just a plane-ride away…