"Italy in Books" - June reviews

Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011! What? You haven't joined yet? No worries, there is time to sign up until the very last day of the year...

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in June (via this link). I am sure that everyone will find it useful to learn about new and interesting reading ideas - in fact, I suspect that as a result of this challenge my TBR list will expand dangerously!

Whether you know the books that are being discussed or have never heard of them, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the blogs themselves. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not a mere competition, rather an opportunity to share ideas and bond over common interests!

Let's begin!

01. Barbara read and reviewed The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
02. Scribacchina read and reviewed Pompeii by Robert Harris.

03. Juliet read and reviewed The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.
04. Maggie read and reviewed Recipe for Life by Nicky Pellegrino.

05. Gretchen read and reviewed The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe.
06. Patricia read and reviewed Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon.
07. Dorla read and reviewed The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi.
08. Jeane read Casa Agnelli by Marco Ferrante. Scroll down to read her review.
09. Roberta read and reviewed Casa Nostra: Viaggio nei Misteri d’Italia by Camilla Cederna.
10. Tina read and reviewed Eat Love Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert.
11. Scribacchina read and reviewed The Art Thief by Noah Charney.
12. Pete read and reviewed See Naples and Die by Penelope Green.
13. Laura read and reviewed The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner.
14. Laura read and reviewed The Italian Quarter by Domenica de Rosa.
15. Laura read and reviewed The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve.
16. Laura read and reviewed Frederico, the Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani.
17. Kathy read and reviewed The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri.
18. Lindy read and reviewed Ask Me If I'm Happy by Kimberly Menozzi.
19. Lara read Una barca nel bosco by Paola Mastrocola. Scroll down to read her review.
20. Lynn read and reviewed Tuscany for Beginners by Imogene Edwards-Jones.

Reviews by non bloggers

Casa Agnelli by Marco Ferrante. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
Even though I am not Italian and didn't grow up in Italy, I did grow up surrounded by Italian cars, Italian football..... Fiat was a standard thing in my life, which I 'embraced' and went crazy for Alfa Romeo. Juventus I didn't embrace and became Milanista. But the Agnelli family has always been around in some way.
So reading this book about this huge family was an interesting thought and in the end was very good. The family was walked through member by member in an interesting way which linked one to another in a story. Different sides were shown and the Agnelli life was explained from the beginning until the present.
It is a very interesting, easy and fast-paced book to read.

Una barca nel bosco by Paola Mastrocola. Read and reviewed by Lara:
The protagonist of “Una barca nel bosco” (A boat in the wood) by Paola Mastrocola is Gaspare, a teenager from Southern Italy. Gaspare is such a skilled student that his teacher encourages him to move to Torino together with his mother, and to study at the Liceo Classico.
The contrast between the quiet environment of the island where Gaspare has lived all his young life and the chaotic Torino could not be greater. He is alone, at the beginning: he likes poetry, translating from Latin and Greek; he cannot be accepted by other teenagers, who prefer uncomplicated life and isolate him. Gaspare understands what he has to do: he stops to get good marks at school, learn how to play with videogames. He wears a mask and immediately is a part of the group…but this is not enough... all his life, his choices are conditioned. He has to play a role: he is like “a boat in the wood”, outside of his environment, and cannot escape.
After the high school the University starts: Gaspare graduates in Law, in spite of his secret dream, to study as a Latinist. Life is always disappointing, with not so many friends and arising difficulties: nature could constitute a pleasant environment for him, but there are no colors and oxygen in Torino, as it was in the island where Gaspare lived his first years. His father is still there and he often thinks about him, about the blue of the sea and the sky.
Life will lead our protagonist towards the right decisions for himself: after his mother’s and aunt’s deaths, Gaspare has to run the family activity. Since he loves nature and gardening, he has transformed his house in a wood: trees and plants will be companions in the “Bosco Mondo”, a magic world where he is surrounded by real friends and where he does not feel discomfort and disappointment.
At the end, Gaspare talks about his life and expectation with his father, and here we discover what happened years before, and why he had to remain in Torino. Gaspare’s father died when he still was at the Liceo: how hard life had been with our protagonist… However, this is only apparently a cruel conclusion: Gaspare has grown up and he is now a mature guy. He knows what he wants and needs, and he has not to wear anymore a mask to be part of a group…he is now part of his “Bosco Mondo”.
I would recommend to read this book: the reader will appreciate the simple language and the vivid descriptions of Gaspare’s life. But, as soon as the reader proceeds in the reading, the true meaning of each episode, object, action, will be clear. Gaspare is alone against all: the town, the family, the world itself: anyway, he learns from his mistakes and discovers how to re-invent his life or, at least, how to accept it.

And remember, one June reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Roma by Steven Saylor, courtesy of Constable & Robinson. Buona fortuna!


  1. Pompeii is one of my favourite books. It is soooooooooooo good. I remember I felt like I was next to the main character, walking with him.

  2. I have only read four from this months list but would recommend Pompeii by Robert Harris, apart from my own choice for this month!


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