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One Italian Summer: Review
Star Star Star Star Star

The ONLY thing this book did for me was make me crave Italian food

Warning: this review contains spoilers!

Synopsis: “When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.”

Rebecca Serle is back at it again with a book about an unlikable main character, a questionable mother-daughter relationship, and a dash of Italian flavour.

Contrary to how it may appear, I do not enjoy rating books this low. I genuinely don’t. In fact, I was very excited to pick this up: a little time travel, magical realism, a close mother-daughter relationship, and the picturesque Amalfi Coast. What’s not to love? Well, a lot actually.

Let me get straight to the point. My BIGGEST issue, the one that almost made me DNF this book at chapter one was the following question uttered by the main character: “If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?”. And Katy doesn’t stop there. Not only does she claim that her mother was the love of her life, but that she was Carol’s as well. Of course, Carol loved Katy’s father, but Katy still insists that she was her mother’s one and only true love and that her “love with [her] mother was truer, purer, than what she had with [her] father”. What do you mean?! I was seriously looking forward to a story about a close bond between a mother and her daughter, but not this close. I’m sorry. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the problem here, but when I read things like the above, I can’t help but feel a shiver running down my spine. Not because you shouldn’t love your mother, but because this level of attachment is…unhealthy, to say the least. Loving your child or parent and loving your partner are two EXTREMELY different types of love and comparing the two is just plain weird. Further, I cannot get over the co-dependency Katy had with her mother. Katy is a 30 (!) year old woman and yet her mother used to pick out most of her clothes and furniture for her, cooked for her, etc. Throughout the entire story Katy put her mother on a pedestal: reiterating again and again how amazing Carol was, how she ALWAYS knew what to do, what to say, she was perfect until – gasp! – Katy finds out that she was a woman with flaws like anyone else. Carol and Katy are having a delightful dinner date together when Katy discovers a photograph of a baby in Carol’s bedroom. And this baby is…her! OMG! The deception! The betrayal!! Her mother was having fun in Italy while Katy was all alone in the USA (I mean, she was with her father, but he doesn’t count). So, Katy – as any reasonable adult would do – throws a complete temper tantrum, calling her mother a “monster” and based on this she believes “the entirety of [her] life to be a lie”. Really, Katy? I understand this to be a shock for you, but do I have to remind you of the fact that your mother did in fact return home to raise you and continuously wrote letters to you and your father while being abroad for, what, like a few weeks?

And you know what? I really hated the way Katy treated her husband and the whole Adam storyline. So right before Katy leaves for Italy she tells her husband, Eric, that she is not sure if she wants to stay married to him. And this on its own would have been completely justified. However, Katy only really seemed to want this divorce because they never had any obstacles or hardships to overcome. This, to me, is utterly ridiculous. Like… THAT’S why you want to break off a perfectly fine marriage? Because you had never been through anything tough before? The death of your mother, the grief, all of it is your chance of making it through something together and you want to give up like that? You do you, I guess.

During her stay in Italy, Katy starts an affair with Adam, an American businessman, who stays in the same hotel. Their little romance didn’t work for me for a multitude of reasons:

  1. After their first kiss he literally calls Eric a “fucking idiot” for “letting [Katy] come here by herself”. EXCUSE ME? You are blaming Eric for his wife cheating on him when he was NOTHING but supportive to her?! It made my blood boil.
  2. At one point in the book Katy describes Adam as an “alpha male”… Yuck. Do I need to say more?
  3. Their sleeping with one another didn’t serve the plot or the character very well. In the end, Katy suddenly loves Eric again. The cheating apparently doesn’t count anymore because – surprise – it is revealed that Katy spend the past days in 1992 all along?!

Which brings me to my last issue with this book: How did Katy not realize that she traveled back in time thirty fucking years? THIRTY. Not one or two. No. Thir-ty. Yeah, yeah. “Italy is timeless” yada yada yada. Yes, the architecture might look the same. But what about cars, electronics, and fashion? Did Katy never talk about any recent world events with any of the protagonists? That just seems impossible to me. So, you are telling me that Katy sees her mother as a thirty-year-old woman standing in front of her and she never – not even for a split second – considers that maybe, just maybe, she traveled back in time? Come on.

Now, moving on to what I actually enjoyed about this book: I loved the vivid descriptions of Positano, the Amalfi Coast, and all the delicious food. Reading this, especially in late summer before the reds, yellows, and golds of autumn appear, felt like pure escapism, which I definitely appreciated. I’d travel to Italy right now if I could. But a woman can dream, can’t she?

Bottom line: The picturesque setting and the descriptions of mouth-watering food were great.
Other than that, I really didn’t like this one. That’s all I have to say.

One Italian Summer