I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina and sharing my review of this intense and powerful love story.
Thank you to Aimee at Bookollective for inviting me to join the tour.
About the Book
Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down.
Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief.
Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts?
Format: Paperback (303 pp.) Publisher: Eyewear Publishing
Published: 1st March 2018 Genre: Fiction, Romance
Find That Summer in Puglia on Goodreads
That Summer in Puglia tells the story of a love affair between two young people – Tommaso and Anna – that is as intense as the heat of an Italian summer. Tommaso is clever, introspective and solitary with just a small circle of friends. He’s never had a girlfriend because he’s never come across anyone with whom he feels a real connection. That all changes when he meets Anna, the result of a chance encounter – or perhaps it’s fate? ‘Extraordinary, how the course of lives can depend on trivia.’
I loved the way Tommaso and Anna bond over a shared love of books and thoughtful, earnest conversation. One of the great strengths of the book is the way it conveys the plethora of feelings associated with first love – and not just desire or wanting to be with the other person all the time. Tommaso finds his outlook on the world has suddenly changed since meeting Anna. ‘Places, people and objects outside school took on new meaning whenever – and it was often – they confirmed something she had said and which had never occurred to me… Everyday actions triggered musings as to what Anna might say or do: whether she took the same pleasure as me in the blossoming almond trees at this time of year…whether she ate her focaccia alla cipolla – oozing from every side with its succulent filling of sautéed onions, capers, tiny black olives and fresh tomato chunks – with fork and knife like my mother, or with bare hands like most of us.’
As Tommaso and Anna roam the maze of narrow streets that make up the Old Town of Ostuni, taking delight in small things and shared places, there are beautiful descriptions of the ancient town, full of light and shade. ‘We turned into the narrower stretch of the street. Over the centuries, carts had carved smooth grooves into the white flagstones. The further we climbed, the more closely huddled together the houses became. Arched alleyways opened up alongside us and snaked their way towards partially-seen buildings and hidden corners… The orange-tinted street lights bounced off the whiteness of walls and flagstones, adding to the labyrinth’s air of mystery and magic.’ I also have to include at this point another example of the simply luscious description of Italian food that had my stomach rumbling, in this case tajedda, an ‘amalgam of fresh mussels, potatoes, perini tomatoes, rice and olive oil, all baked together to perfection.’
Tommaso’s relationship with his father is also wonderfully rendered – heartfelt and touching. In contrast, Tommaso’s relationship with his mother is a picture of complexity. Both seem unable to express their true feelings and this inability will prove to have unimagined consequences as the story unfolds.
That Summer in Puglia provides a devastating portrait of how love can, in a moment, turn to hate if fuelled by insecurity, jealousy and an inability to trust. And how what often follows just as quickly is regret, guilt, despair and hopelessness. It also shows how a single action, even if done for what is thought are the right reasons, can have unintended and long-lasting consequences. But that sometimes there may be the opportunity to make reparation.
I’ll confess I wasn’t completely convinced by the device of the private investigator as the recipient of Tommaso’s memories or that Tommaso could have remained undiscovered and undocumented for so many years. However, the emotional power of Tommaso’s story and the effortless, flowing writing of Valeria Vescina is what will stay with me about That Summer in Puglia.
I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Eyewear Publishing, and Aimee at Bookollective in return for an honest and unbiased review.
In three words: Intense, emotional, intimate
Try something similar… Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma (click here for my review)
About the Author
Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). That Summer In Puglia is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network. She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).
Connect with Valeria