- Book: Not In our Hands
- Author: Charlotte Gringras
The author clearly has a good grasp of this part of the world – Todi, Pitigliano and wider Umbria and Tuscany, bringing the region to colourful life. The characters move around, on foot and by bus to explore whilst the storyline develops. There is quite a lot of simple Italian to add atmosphere, perhaps a little overkill at times but it does generally add flavour.
Jake has arrived in Todi to concentrate on developing his language skills and meets a young woman from his past, with whom he spent a lot of time in childhood. She is researching Jewish history of the area. Jake falls for a young woman with whom it will be difficult to find a way forward, but youthful determination and optimism are certainly useful character traits to cultivate.
Jake teaches English to a young professional footballer, who is shortly off to Wigan and through him, he and friends attend a Lazio-Roma football match which sees them witness some potentially terrible racist and violent thuggery.
The author slides in issues around acceptance and tolerance and expresses them through the studied inclusion of cultural and religious heritage, which links the various episodes of Jake’s life as it pans out in Italy. The characters aren’t particularly well developed, I don’t feel I really got to know any of them much beyond their religious and cultural personas and what those represented to develop the story.
It’s a nice read and particularly well suited to an older YA audience to enable thinking around the subjects tackled in the novel, and also to learn about the pleasures (mostly) of being in Italy.