This review is rather delayed due to the ridiculous amount of time it took to actually finish the book, followed by a lack of internet. It means I'm almost done with the next book though, so I can be extra speedy with the next review. So hey, every cloud...!
Oh Amazon, why must you tempt me? This next book was a spur-of-the-moment download via an email from Amazon. Having taken 2 years of Italian and being the lover of European travel that I am, I thought this book would be a safe bet for a light-hearted beach read with a smidge of Sicilian intrigue (and maybe some mafiosi..?). What could possibly go wrong?
And the book is...
Romance-ish, with some treasure hunting, food and travel thrown in
Tess inherits a villa in Sicily which she then visits, uncovering secrets from the island's, and her mother's, past while she is there.
I was supremely underwhelmed by this book in many ways. But let's start with the positives, shall we?
My favourite thing about this book was definitely the incredibly vivid and lush descriptions of Sicilian cooking and landscapes. It certainly got my mouth watering and made me desperately want to visit Sicily! The writing throughout these descriptions was inventive and there was some unusual imagery that I enjoyed, especially when describing the food markets using all the senses, making me feel like I was really there. Plus the author clearly knew her stuff and had done a lot of research on diving, Sicilian history and cooking, and Sicilian language (though one or two things did stick out as being not quite right.. "funghi bello"? Where's your adjective agreement???).
But sadly this was not enough to salvage the book. It started out in my estimates as a solid 3 stars; not my usual thing, but still might be worth sticking with. But as it went on, it became clear to me that I was only ploughing through to give me something to review at the end, and I started really looking forward to being able to start something else.
One of the things that annoyed me the most about this book was the ridiculously slow pace. It took me what felt like a lifetime to get through. There was just nothing to pull me in and make me want to keep reading, and I felt like nothing really happened in the first half of the book, apart from Tess going to Sicily and talking to people, then people coming back from Sicily, then going again. Oh, and there was a bit of angst in between. Not exactly gripping. Plus the book just seemed to go on forever! Perhaps it was because I was reading the ebook and couldn't really get a sense of how long it was, but I just kept marvelling at how slow my progress through the book was. ("Wow, I only progressed by 2% in the last half hour and nothing really happened in the story...") Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to slow pace if it benefits atmosphere or character development. But I was a bit disappointed by that too, which leads me on to...
The characters. These were a mixed bunch really. My favourite character, and the only one that really resonated with me, was Flavia, Tess's mum. As the book progresses, more and more of Flavia's past gets revealed, and we learn the reason she left Sicily never to return. I thought telling her story alongside her favourite Sicilian recipes was an inventive touch, and I thought Flavia's love stories rang the truest of all of them.
I just couldn't get into the other characters though. Tess, to me, was just a bit wet. Not a great characteristic for a supposed protagonist! She just sort of went round finding out about things and not doing much else, and I never really got a strong sense of her voice (hard to define, but you just know when a character has this). I felt like her Sicilian love story appeared from nowhere and I didn't really get a strong sense of her feelings either. Pity.
And her daughter, Ginny, was even more irritating! I read so many of her ridiculous exclamations that I was almost compelled to throw my kindle out the bus window..! "Jumping jackals", "hovering unicorns", and "suffering slugs"??? Just no! I also felt like there really wasn't much point to her parts of the story... The whole lot could quite easily have been cut right out and it wouldn't have made a difference to the plot. It might even have improved the book as it would have made the end come sooner. (Oh snap!)
Needless to say, this book was severely lacking in suction power and zing. It just dragged on and on without much plot to show for it, and I found most of the characters pretty bland (except when they were using ridiculous teen 'slang'). The only places the book came close to impressing me were the descriptions of food and scenery, which far outstripped the plot, characters, and general interestingness which lagged behind quite catastrophically. These, and these alone, are what saved this book from the dreaded 1 star.
Instead, I'm going for...
What did you think of The Villa? Do you agree with my review? Does anyone know an actual teenager who talks like Ginny??? Let me know in the comments.