Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

Katy’s mother, Carol has just died and she is struggling really badly because she was very close to her mom. She went to her for everything and didn’t make a decision without her mother’s input. Before her mother passed, they had planned a trip to Positano, Italy. A place her mother spent time in when she was younger. Katy decides to stick to the plan and go there alone leaving her husband in limbo as she also tells him she needs a break.

The new environment doesn’t help Katy feel better as she reminisces on her marriage and focuses on how young they were and how stale things have become. She slowly embraces the beautiful scenery and food and also meets a man named Adam, who shows her around town.

The story switches gears when she meets a woman named Carol – yes, it’s her mother at 30 years old. Desperate to have any connection to her mother, she doesn’t question what is happening and she latches on to Carol, hanging out with her everyday and taking her in. Katy gets a glimpse of her mother’s life before she was born and realizes that there was more to her than just being Katy’s emergency contact.

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I enjoyed this book. It was an easy and quick read for me. The best thing about the book was the fact that you could tell that Serle has been to Italy and enjoyed it immensely. She painted a hella vivid picture of Positano and the other cities Katy visited. The views, the weather, the buildings, the food. Everything made you feel like you could see and taste it even though you aren’t physically there (the hotel Katy stayed in is a real hotel).

Things I didn’t care much for – When Katy first stumbles across Carol, I thought it was a side effect of missing her mom so much and she was hallucinating. As I read further and realized she was really interacting with her actual mother at 30 years old, I was like errr…what is happening? I’ll save you the thought – we never find out. I think the expectation was to just go along with it and follow Katy’s perspective as she realizes her mother was a whole human before she became her mother.

“My mother, you see, is the great love of my life.”

Katy seeing this perspective is important because of how much she idolized her mom. I would like to start by saying that I understand grief and I understood Katy’s but she seemed a little codependent on her mom. The way she described it, she never made a decision without her mom’s input even to the detriment of her marriage because she put her mom’s opinions over his and in general she had no decision making skills. At some point, someone asks her what she wants and she couldn’t answer.

“I hope you’ll understand someday that just because you become a mother doesn’t mean you stop being a woman.”

Katy saw herself as the love of her mother’s life and interacting with her 30 year old mom and seeing she had a full life that didn’t involve her and a love interest that wasn’t her dad was difficult for her. Which brings me to my other point, I found Katy very unlikeable. She was childish and selfish. Besides her weird attachment to her mother, I hated how she treated her husband.

I read that the author is close to her mother (who is alive) and her biggest fear is losing her, so in some way this book was her, working through her fears. There are more stories in the book and they managed to keep me intrigued. I will say that this is the first book that I liked despite an unlikeable character.


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