Lead Review

  • Book: Under the Italian Sun
  • Location: Umbria
  • Author: Sue Moorcroft

Review Author: Tina Hartas

Location

Content

Given that we can’t travel at the moment due to Covid, the next best thing of course is to travel by book. This novel will take you to the heart of Umbria, to a fictional village called Montelibertà set at 600M. It is near to Perugia, and Orvieto was in part the inspiration for Montelibertà; Lake Trasimeno is not far away. The whole book conjures up the feel of this beautiful area of Italy. It is full of sunbaked terraces, vineyards, the lavender fragrance mingling with the herbs that dot the countryside, the chirruping sound of crickets punctuating the balmy evenings and pure skies at night are speckled with stars.

Zia-Lucia is living in Brighton and has just been made redundant, and now she has emotional space perhaps to delve into her past. She was brought up by loving grandparents but somewhere along the line there are holes in the fabric of her family history and she decides to trawl through old papers to really get to the heart of her own story. She discovers discombobulating information that wobbles her to the core, and the deeper she goes, the more she is driven to set off in search of her biological father, who seems to hail from Italy. After all, she hasn’t randomly been given an Italian sounding name and there is quite a mystery to resolve!

She is hoping that she could perhaps ultimately take up residency in Italy, after all why not as she is half Italian! However, in order to facilitate this, given that the UK is now outside the EU and the ease of movement between countries has been scuppered by Brexit, she encounters so many more hurdles to jump through. Confirming direct blood lineage would certainly expedite the process for her and thus, another incentive to discover the true identity of her father.

She is soon on her way to Italy with her great friend Ursula – both women are having man trouble at home – so a break from the quotidian seems like a promising idea. What’s not to like about Italy and the glorious weather and perhaps an adventure or two!

They book into a property run by the family with whom she believes she has links and being at the heart of a voluble and hearty Italian family, headed by the welcoming Lucia (and yes, it seems she has the same name as Zia!) proves to be a whirlwind baptism of fire, with a rather dashing Piero in the adjoining property. There is wine to be made, ceramics to be painted, family disagreements to be settled and property issues that need addressing. Zia has propelled herself onto a real rollercoaster of family discovery.

Of course there is heartache along the way, the path of true love never does run smoothly. There are bumps along the road, both physical and emotional but this is a lovely uplifting novel, full of heart, with likeable characters that takes the reader to the heart of Italy. I listened to this as an audiobook and on my Covid walks I was transported from the mizzle and mist, the grey clouds swirling above (Summer in England, you know how it is) to Italian sunshine, love and a real zest for life.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition! Entries close 6th November

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media