This is the kind of novel for which you clear the calendar. Seriously. Even if you don’t aspire to sit down and read the book from start to finish in one sitting, take care of any potential distractions before you open its pages so that you can give yourself over totally to basking in the imagery, the ambiance, and the emotions of the story for however long you are able to indulge at one time. Yes. This book is THAT good!
If, like me, you aren’t a fan of insta-love, don’t let that deter you from picking up this novel. This is not a story of insta-love – or even insta-lust for that matter. From the moment they whisper the same Italian word – ‘Aiuto’ (help) – it is as though Ben's and Emily’s souls recognize one another and connect. More than that, their hearts instinctively understand each other, and far from being cheesy or sappy or unrealistic, watching them totally melted my heart. I’m telling you, if you don’t believe in love at first sight, you will at least accept that there are exceptions to the rule by the time you finish this novel! But it's also realistic about the challenges they face as they begin their life together, and the way they handle those challenges is part of the beauty of this story.
The story is narrated in the first person by Emily Price, a twenty-eight year old conservator who has always felt like a paler, less vibrant version of her younger sister, Amy – until she meets Benito Vassallo. And I just have to say, I’m more than a little in love with Ben myself! He is a true romantic, but not in the over-the-top way that is the Italian stereotype. He is gentler, more sincere, and yet still brimming with the vitality for which the Italian people are known. And his accent! Bellissimo! It sang from the page!
Like all good books (and paintings, as Emily points out!) this is a richly layered novel, full of symbolism, beautiful subtext, and an exploration of the emotional significance behind Emily’s professional and personal drive to fix things that are broken. Emily sums it up well when she narrates:
“As I lay in the dark, a line from a book read long ago ran on repeat through my mind: An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure . . . The author had been striving to understand vice, sin, and addiction. I lay there grasping for peace and yearning for something more.”
For Emily, peace has always come through fixing things:
“Objects carried weight, and in fixing those, I found one could mend so much more.”
But how do you find peace when things are beyond your ability to fix?
Katherine Reay's writing captures the soul of Emily’s journey with the skill of a master artist. It is heart-warming, tender, and poignant. Open its pages, and allow yourself to feast.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
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