Thursday, March 10, 2022

Book Review: One Italian Summer

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: to Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and a daughter. With her signature “heartbreaking, redemptive, and authentic” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Melissa Amster:

I wanted to read One Italian Summer because I enjoyed In Five Years, there was a surreal element, and the cover is so enticing. If you're looking for an amazing overseas armchair adventure where you can imagine eating delicious food all day long, then pick this one up!

The descriptions in this novel definitely transported me overseas to a place I've never actually been. I could feel it all come to life in front of me. I liked that the focus of this story was more about a mother and daughter relationship, even though there were some romantic scenes outside of that. It felt like I was taking a vacation inside my head while reading this novel. It also had some elements that reminded me of This is Us. I liked the location aspect of this novel the most.

While the story was interesting overall, it didn't really move me like I was expecting it to. Katy was always waffling on her decisions, even when a big revelation happened. I understand how Carol felt about some things, but she could have gone about them in different ways. 

Since no two readers are alike, I encourage you to pick this one up and see what you think. 

Movie casting suggestions:
Carol (younger version): Billie Lourd
Marco: Rhys Coiro

Becky Gulc:

Somehow I agreed to review this novel without fully absorbing the premise, that this is a book about someone recently bereaved by the loss of their mother. When I read the synopsis and the opening chapters, I wondered whether I’d manage to get through this novel, I lost my precious mum last year and I didn’t know if it would be painful and too close to home. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mum, but her best friend all resonated so much with me. ‘I cannot yet conceive of a world without her, what that will look like, who I am in her absence’. Poignant words that really tapped into how grief feels. But how did I get on?

Firstly, any book which starts with a quote by Lorelai Gilmore is a winner for me. Whilst the book deals with new and profound grief, it still managed to be an escapist and enjoyable one for me. Soon Katy is on the trip to Italy she was always meant to take with her mother, and I felt I was there with her. When Carol appears ‘for real’ as her younger self right there in Positano, a village on the Amalfi Coast, the book becomes lighter, hopeful, and fun, even if a tad bizarre! I don’t generally enjoy any kind of time travel in books but this worked and I thought it was beautifully done the way Katy and Carol got to know each other in a different way.

We know early on Katy is going through some marriage difficulties and there is a whole aspect of the story related to this. Again, this was weaved in well and felt realistic in the sense of the plot as it unfolded. The star of the show is Italy, Positano, the amazing trips Katy and Carol take, the hotels... I had such a strong sense of place throughout the trip and had vivid images of what this place might be like to visit. I want to visit! 

Whilst emotional at times, I truly enjoyed this novel and would definitely be keen to read other novels by Rebecca. 

Thanks to Atria and Quercus for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Rebecca Serle:

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