Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato - Italy In Books Reading Challenge July 2011

When I read the back cover of The Glassblower of Murano I immediately thought that the plot sounded good, set as it is in two locations and in two very different centuries.
I knew very little about life in Venice during the 17th century and virtually nothing about the island of Murano other than that in the 1960's many British tourists brought back glass ornaments as souvenirs of their visits to Italy.
I have however visited Versailles and walked through the Hall of Mirrors or Salon des Glaces, so I expected to enjoy The Glassblower of Murano for a variety of reasons.

Image courtesy of France Monthly

Well, dear reader, I have to tell you that I didn't enjoy this book very much at all, although I did finish reading it.
After her marriage ends Nora Manin decides to leave London and go to Venice "to embrace her Italianess" by discovering more about her famous ancestor Corradino Manin the greatest glassblower ever to work in the furnaces of Murano.
I don't want to spoil the book for anyone else so all I'll say is that I felt the story of Corradino and Leonora (she uses her full name once in Italy) could have been so much more.
As with the last two "Italian" books, this one's up for grabs too.
Just be the first to email me and I'll be happy to send it to you, maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Memory Keepers Daughter - Kim Edwards

I've just finished reading The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards, one of many books that I bought second hand at the Oxfam Book shop in Hereford last month.
As soon as I read the description on the back cover I knew I would enjoy this debut novel.
In1964 Dr. David Henry is driving carefully through the deserted streets of Lexington, Kentucky during a fierce winter blizzard, to take his wife, of just one year, to the hospital.
Norah is in labour and about to give birth.
Deciding that they can't get to the hospital in time he takes her to his medical practice instead, where with the help of his nurse Caroline Gill, David delivers their son, Paul.
But, there's another baby.
They were unaware that Norah is carrying twins.
Their daughter Phoebe is delivered safely, however it is immediately apparent that she has Down's Syndrome.
David is a complicated man who grew up dirt poor and had to strive hard to become the successful doctor that he is now, he has kept his past a secret from Norah.
Phoebe's birth brings painful memories crashing back and in an instant David turns to the nurse and gives her his daughter, instructing Caroline to take the baby to an institution many miles away.
Believing that he will be saving Norah from a life of heartbreak and grief he tells his wife that their baby daughter was born dead.
Caroline takes the baby to the institution but once there cannot bring herself to leave her in such a dreadful place. Reflecting on her own life, (unmarried still, at thirty one and half in love with David) she makes her own life changing decision.
Caroline gets back in her car and drives out into the blizzard, determined to raise Phoebe as her own daughter.

The Memory Keepers Daughter is an uncompromising, compelling tale of these two families, living parallel lives, shaped by the secrets and lies that began on a fateful night in 1964.
I'd definitely recommend this book, and as with "Recipe For Life" I'll make the same offer to send it on to the first commenter who would like to read it too.

Linking this review to the What We're Reading Linky Party on the 20th graciously hosted by Ricki Jill @ Art@ Home.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Recipe For Life - Italy In Books Reading Challenge 2011, June.

Recipe for Life – Nicky Pellegrino
“Your time is limited so don’t waste it leading someone else’s life”
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc.
The above quote leads the reader into Part 1 of “Recipe For Life” where we meet Alice, a University student from the North of England, and discover the life changing event that makes her run away from all she has ever known, determined to live life to the full from now on.
Alice moves to London to share a flat in Maida Vale with her friend Leila and takes over Leila’s job, waitressing at a local brasserie, eventually being promoted to manager. She becomes close to the brasserie chef, Guyon and when he moves to Teatro, a stunning new restaurant owned by up and coming hot Chef, Tonino Ricci, she follows him there to work in the kitchens.
Hundreds of miles away, in Southern Italy, Babetta lives in a small house overlooking the Mediterranean, with her husband Nunzio. She spends her days caring for her own garden and the gardens of the Villa Rosa next door. They live quite frugally and when a depressed Nunzio decides he’s no longer going to speak Babetta’s life is quite bleak.
When Leilas wealthy, artist mother buys the Villa Rosa Leila tells Alice to ask her boss Tonino if she can take some time off from work to go to Italy. When he discovers that the Villa Rosa is in Triento the village where he grew up and where his parents (Raffaella and Ciro) and brother (Lucio) live still, Tonino is very enthusiastic that she go for the season.
He arranges for Alice to spend time working in his parents seafood restaurant, learning to cook the same way that he did.
As close neighbours Alice and Babetta immediately strike up a friendship despite not being able to speak each other’s language. In Babetta’s tiny kitchen they prepare wonderful dishes from recipes that she has gathered over many years, thus reawakening Babetta’s love of cooking, and she begins to prepare special dishes for herself and her husband Nunzio.
Alternating chapters chronicle Alice and Babetta’s lives as they both come to terms with the choices they make. Several years later they reconnect at the Villa Rosa, both of them changed in many ways.
At first glance it would be easy to mistake this book for a frothy romance, another book to read by the pool and there is plenty of boy meets girl, unrequited love etc. going on, but I think that it is more than just that.
“Recipe For Life” is about friends, food, relationships, and also about coming to terms with the things that happen to us in life, some of which may be beyond our control, and decisions or choices which might seem right when we make them but ultimately lead us along pathways that we might never have taken.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Recipe For Life”, the first book by this author that I have read, and if you think you’d like it too I’ll happily gift it to the first person who asks.

Click here to read other reviews submitted this month.