A visit to Tuscany would be amazing in itself but heading to that region of Italy to attend a creative writing course? Well, that would be the dream.
No wonder I was immediately taken with Domenica de Rosa’s book, One Summer in Tuscany, which not only features both of those things but also takes place in a rustic-sounding castle (sign me up!).
There is much to love about this book even though it’s quite slow to start and, for the sleep addled among us, it’s quite hard getting all the different voices, who take turns narrating, straight at first.
It reminded me of being on a rollercoaster where it builds and builds towards a dramatic and actually rather thrilling finish.
Here’s the blurb:
Patricia Wilson’s carefully composed ads for the writers’ retreat she runs at her thirteenth-century Italian castle promise so much. But while the splendour of their surroundings and chef Aldo’s melanzane never fail to wow the guests, huge maintenance bills and bad news from the bank threaten to close Patricia down. It’s make or break time for the Castello.
Each of her seven aspiring authors arrives with the inevitable baggage alongside their unpublished manuscripts. But this August something is different, and soon lifelong spinster Mary is riding on the back of Aldo’s vespa, and smouldering odd-job man Fabio has set more than one heart racing.
As temperatures rise, the writers gossip, flirt and gently polish their prose by the pool. But with ghosts, scorpions, and some unexpected visitors to contend with, one thing’s for sure: neither the Castello, nor Patricia, has ever seen a summer like this.
The story is skilfully told and not only offers great insight into Italian life but also the creative writing process. I was especially entertained reading the course participants’ efforts at the various writing exercises.
Of course, the setting plays a hugely important role in the book and the vivid descriptions of not just the castello but the places they visit on different excursions really helped to bring the story to life.
All the characters are well developed. There were some I liked more than others but the one I loved the most was Mary. Without spoiling anything it was fantastic to see a more mature character come into her own.
While the ending left me with a huge smile on my face, I did feel, however satisfying it might be, that it was just a tiny bit too perfect with everything sewn up so happily. I would have liked to have seen Patricia, in particular, taken on a different route.
Having said all that, it was an enjoyable read that only strengthened my love of Italy (and creative writing).
My rating: Four stars.
With thanks to Quercus Books (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.