This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kate Appleton
Gina has been living in Rome for the past twenty-five years. Fiercely independent she works as a photographer, has a complicated lover and a secret friendship with a group of young refugees. So it isn’t ideal when Sasha, a lonely British teenager at Italian summer school, crosses Gina's path, and unwittingly unearths painful memories of Gina’s past. Sasha's innocent romance and questioning nature creates complications neither of them could have imagined leading Gina to wonder, can she come to terms with her demons?
Gina’s quite a strange protagonist to get to grips with, she’s clearly got a lot of shadows in her past and Feeny allows us little snapshots into her life by introducing us to a variety of male names, there’s Felix and Paul and the Lion King. However, it’s slow moving and at times frustrating because it’s all a bit sporadic. This is made more apparent when Gina meets Sasha, she’s excessively rude and abrupt, the reasons as to why are explained later, but I thought her actions were unrealistic and exaggerated.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Sasha. I can imagine it can be quite difficult to write the voice of a teenage character and it was a bit disappointing to read such clichés as; being thrilled to not have ginger hair, these were just a bit obvious making it hard to relate to her. However, thankfully this was only for the first half of the book and she does develops into a more interesting character, especially when she becomes entangled in her very own complicated love story which forces her to grow up and face difficult decisions.
In addition, it was refreshing to read a story set in Rome that didn’t simply romanticise the beauty, culture and lifestyle of what tourists experience. Instead it dealt with the darker side of reality, in this case young refugees. This was far more interesting, in comparison to the parallel storyline of love and being a kept woman in an apartment, instead it explored the conditions in which the refugees, largely from Afghanistan, live and their daily struggle for survival. It is through Gina and her photography projects that we are introduced to this world and this is a redeeming character trait.
In general this will be a popular holiday read, it’s got some interesting threads about culture and prejudices however, the characters didn’t quite endear themselves to me and I felt the sequence of events were slightly too contrived for my taste.
Penny Feeny's Website