Friday, June 25, 2021

Nicky Pellegrino - Delicious

Maria Carozza should be happy living in the lovely Italian village of San Giulio. Ensconced in her mother’s kitchen, she bakes bread every morning, the way the Carozza women always have. But at sixteen, Maria is eager for adventure, so she escapes to Rome, where she has a passionate love affair. One year later, she returns to San Giulio in disgrace—eight months pregnant, with the identity of the baby’s father a mystery. Hastily, shamefully, she is married off to a neighbor’s son. Maria soon escapes again, this time to England, where she searches once more for a new life for herself and her daughter, Chiara. An irresistible saga of three very different generations of Italian women and the old kitchen in Campania that binds them.

Comment: This book was lent to me by my best friend, whose dream would be to visit Italy every month if she could. It's no wonder she has many books about or set in Italy, which is the case with this one.

In this story we meet the Carrozza family, they live in a small village in the south of Italy during the 60s and the oldest daughter, Maria Domenica, wants something more for her life than just a marriage to a boy she doesn't really like and a life repeating her mother's steps. It's not that she doesn't respect her mother's position but she wishes she could travel and see different things. When she can, she finally flees to Rome but it doesn't take too long for her to return, pregnant and in need of help. However, life back home isn't easy when women didn't have many choices and she leaves again, this time to England.
Years later, it's her daughter Chiara who has a busy life writing cooking books but she never knew about her mother's Italian family. Now the opportunity presents itself, will Chiara be well received in her mother's village? What about the family she didn't know about and that didn't know about her either?

This book was published several years ago, in 2005. It's not much but in publishing years it feels longer than that, even more so due to the writing style. This is the first book by the author I try and although it wasn't a bad story, I don't feel like reading other things by her. It all came down to how the story is told and it wasn't as amazing it could be, the way I see it...

The book can be divided into two main parts, the story centered on maria Domenica and the one centered on her daughter Chiara. I don't really mind this technique but it did break the plot in two and the momentum one had after getting used to and invested in Maria's side of things seemed to have no real closure. I felt this even more when, as soon as the daughter's part begins, we know what happened to Maria years later, not having read much from the moment she got her life settled in England. Sure, one can infer things but it felt as if the emotions I was made to have about Maria's situation weren't "solved" or fit to any specific purpose.

The part about Chiara is also very quick, there are many clichés about what it means to belong to a rustic Italian family and Italian cuisine... I mean, this was important to happen because Chiara goes looking for her roots, since her mother shared nothing about her Italian heritage, but the execution really gave the impression the author wanted to add or use many details and, by doing so, cluttered things a little bit.

Maria's story is one of those we hear about in every small village somewhere. She wants more out of life and tries to get it but things aren't easy for her. On one hand I have to applaud those who just decide on something, have a bit of money and go on an adventure, hoping things work out. I don't think I would feel happy doing so but it seemed Maria tried to follow a dream. I think the author wanted to stress about how hard it was for women in the 60s to want to have dreams outside of being mothers and how things might not work out. I suppose, there are scenes where it felt like Maria was a poster girl for an idea and not specifically someone we could know personally.

Chiara is a likable character but I don't think she was presented the best way. On the other hand, I felt some empathy with her because she felt unsure at times and I can relate. I kind of liked how she took steps to find more about her mother's past and that leads her to Italy and her family... some secondary characters who interact with Chiara seem a bit one dimensional for plot purposes but it was interesting enough to see Chiara dealt with the new things going her way. I still think some things were done too quickly for the kind of pace the author went for (mostly too quiet) so some elements clashed. There's a bit of romance at the end which is cute enough.

All in all, an entertaining read, good enough yes, but not as special as I thought it might be.
Grade: 6/10

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