'This isn't a mid-life crisis OK? For a start I'm not old enough yet to have one of those. I'm calling it a happiness project. I've stolen an entire summer from my life and by the time it's over I plan to leave this place with a list in my hand. The ten things that make me happy, that's all I want to know. How difficult can it be? They may be small things - a perfect cup of coffee, a day without rain - or bigger ones. It's still the beginning so how can I know?'
Addolorata Martinelli knows she should be happy. She has everything she thought she wanted - her own business, a husband, a child. So why does she feel as if something is missing? Then, when her restaurant, Little Italy, is slated by a reviewer, she realises that she's lost the one thing she thought she could always count on, her love of food.
So Addolorata heads to Venice for a summer alone, aiming to find the ten things that make her happy. Once she's found them, she'll construct a new life around her ten things, but will they include her life in London?
One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino was published by Orion in paperback on 21 April 2016.
I have read four of Nicky Pellegrino's previous novels, they've become something of a holiday tradition for me. I read this one whilst sitting in the sun on Corfu - the perfect location, even if it's not Italy!
This author always seems to fill her stories with wonderful locations and fabulous food, and One Summer in Venice is full of both, the fabulous Venetian setting combined with flavourful and mouth-watering descriptions of exquisite Italian food makes this book a winner for me!
Addolorata (or Dolly, as she's known as), has a seemingly wonderful life, with her handsome husband Eden and her pretty daughter. She runs her family's restaurant Little Italy which was established by her father, and always successful. But the cracks are there, Dolly is tired. Her relationship with Eden has become strained since he was injured and unable to work, her daughter Katia shouts a lot and the day that esteemed and well-known food critic Guy Rochester visits Little Italy, and the resulting piece in his column really could finish her off. She's unhappy, she wants to be happy, but she's not sure what will make her happy.
Although she resists at first, Dolly accepts her sister's offer of a holiday in Venice. She decides that it's a real chance for her to look at her life, at what makes her happy, and to make changes. Dolly is entranced by Venice, by the food, the sights, the sounds and the people. It is one person in particular who really fascinates her. Her elderly neighbour Coco; flamboyant, dressed in many colours and expressing herself in dance. Coco and Dolly become closer, and Dolly falls into the world of dance, learning to Tango, and food .... the week passes, and Dolly doesn't return home. She decides to stay longer, she's finding out things about herself that surprise her and shock her, and she's also enjoying herself. She's Dolly, just Dolly whilst she's in Venice, with no responsibilities or worries.
Nicky Pellegrino writes with such authenticity, drawing on her own life to recreate the beauty of the Venetian streets, and the intricacies of Italian family life. I felt as though I were walking the streets alongside Dolly, as though I too were tasting the lovingly prepared food, and if though I were dancing the Tango under the stars of the Italian sky.
This is a story of friendship, of love, family and self discovery. Once more Nicky Pellegrino has delivered a delightful and absorbing read. Her fans will adore it.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of One Summer in Venice for review.
Nicky Pellegrino was born in Liverpool but spent childhood summers staying with her family in southern Italy. A shy, tall, gingery child she never really fitted in with her exuberant Italian cousins and had a tendency to stay quiet and observe things.
When Nicky started writing fiction it was her memories of those summers in Italy that came flooding back and flavoured her stories: the passions, the feuds but most of all the food.
Nicky now lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband Carne (and yes, she does find it slightly odd being married to a man whose name means 'meat' in Italian), two dogs and two horses.
She works as a freelance journalist, has a column in the Listener, and her novels are distributed in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and have been translated into 12 languages.
She loves cooking for friends, drinking red wine, walking on New Zealand's amazing beaches, riding her horse through the forest and lying in bed reading other people's novels.
For more information about Nicky, and her other novels, visit www.nickypellegrino.com
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Follow her on Twitter @nickypellegrino