Alice is escaping her life, well she is trying. After a horrific night where she is raped, she drops out of university and moves to London and tries to find what it is she wants to do. All the time avoiding being on her own at night where she lives with her friend Leila; going back to Charlie who dumped her before that fateful night and now realises the mistake he made. Alice then blots out the days by working every hour as a chef in an Italian Restaurant where she meets Tonino.
Tonino gives her the opportunity to go to Italy to learn about cooking from his parents who run a little trattoria on the harbour in Triento . Here she discovers not just more love of food but the source of the fresh ingredients, picked straight from the ground, caught fresh from the sea. Different dishes for differing seasons not the monotony of the same dish day in day out as at the restaurant.
To make everything alright and for Alice to feel safe, Leila her friend comes with her to Italy, as her mother has bought Villa Rosa a wonderful house where she wants to paint the sky. This is where Babetta has lived all her life and she tends to the gardens of Villa Rosa
“Villa Rosa was so beautiful…The house was so simple really but it had gardens that tumbled in terraces all the way down to the sea. Its back was to the mountains and it faced a little courtyard with a pomegranate tree in the middle.”
Babetta feels life her life is closing up all around her. There seems no purpose anymore in tending the Villa Rosa gardens when it is not occupied or even her own garden. Her husband, Nunzio is slowing closing up and does not talk anymore just sits in his chair on the terrace and looks out to the sky. The arrival of Alice et al wakes something in Babetta and slowly she changes her life but remembers all the time that all this happiness can be taken away so quickly and tries to despite the language barrier communicate this to Alice who she falls into a comfortable gardening relationship with.
This story is the perfect sunny escape for a summer read. It is touched with the love of food, of friendship and of romance. In alternating chapters between Alice in the first person narrative and Babetta in the third person the story weaves itself together, at times I did wonder how everyone was going to be linked but it happened so naturally, it grew as the vegetables in Babetta’s garden did.
This book reflects that it is okay to be you but do not try and waste it being something you are not as the only person you are cheating ultimately is yourself. Nicky Pellegrino’s love of food comes through in this book and in the previous ones I read. So much so that you find yourself wanting to get up in the middle of night after reading it and starting cooking!
The two linked books are to my Amazon reviews and they all feature hot sunny places with delicious food to be enjoyed on or off the page. I get the impression from the lack of reviews that perhaps Nicky Pellegrino is not so well known. I hope anyone reading my blog perhaps gives her books a go and passes them on to someone else to enjoy as well. If not well I will indulge quite happily on my own.