Monday, March 10, 2014

To Tuscany with Love by Gail Mencini

3 Star

Can one college semester abroad change the course of your life?

Bella Rossini, a vivacious college junior, lands in jail overnight with acquaintances whom she mistakes for friends. Shipped off to Tuscany by her mother, Bella is suddenly thrust into living with seven strangers during one life-altering summer. 

Meet Hope, the sturdy and practical girl, steadfast in her loyalty to her boyfriend; Meghan and Karen, identical twins with an eye for fashion and beauty to match; Stillman, haunted by his hard past, and Phillip, an athlete, both fueled by competition; Lee, by family mandate in pre-med; and Rune, the Hollywood-bound wild child. All add sizzling chemistry and rebellious humor to the mix. 
In one whirlwind summer, while uncovering the charms of Italy, they discover both friendship and love.

After their summer together, life – and loss – happens. 

Returning to Tuscany 30 years later, their dreams, anger, secrets and disappointments create an emotional kaleidoscope. Their reunion sends them on a startling collision course that none of them could have predicted.

Kathryn - 3 Star

The appeal for me in To Tuscany With Love was the travelling aspect of the book and I liked Mencini’s attempts to bring some of Italy’s culture, history and scenery into such a busy set of story-lines. While I enjoyed the general outline of the book there were a number of little irritations that stopped me from giving it a higher star rating.

The first impression I got of the writing was a feeling of awkwardness- I felt uncomfortable with the language and turns of phrases used by both the young men and woman interacting on the course. None of them knew each other and I found that the things they said, within minutes of meeting, didn’t seem natural. It wasn’t that the feelings they were expressing were unexpected, just the way the words came across on the page. I cringed a number of times in the first few chapters. However, once we were more into the adult voices there was less of the awkwardness and I was able to get more involved in the actual plot. 

Mencini crafted a history for each of the students and as their grown-up existences emerged I was more and more intrigued by how their meet up would play out. Their different lives included joy but much more difficulties and heartbreak and on occasion it was a bit much. I wish there were more positive lives unfolding rather than the constant barrage of sadness.  However, there was romance and friendship that brought them all together again, and I suppose the positive end results could put a spin of hope on all their lives.

I loved the concept of renewing friendships after so many years from other countries or school friends lost. There’s a lot to be said for rediscovering youthful relationships.

Thank you to Capriole Group for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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