>> Saturday, June 05, 2010
TITLE: Italian for Beginners
AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel
PUBLISHER: Little Black Dress
SETTING: Contemporary New York and Rome
TYPE: Chick Lit
REASON FOR READING: I'm not sure why I put this on my wish list.
Thirty-four-year-old Manhattan accountant Cat Connelly has always lived life on the safe side. But after her little sister gets married, Cat wonders if she has condemned herself to a life of boredom by playing by the rules. She decides to take a chance for once, accepting an invitation to spend a month with an old flame in Italy.Cat Connelly is stuck in a rut. She's got a boring, predictable job, and she's become just as predictable herself. She's the one everyone depends on (and in the case of her sister, takes advantage of), and hasn't done anything for herself in ages. She's in her mid-30s and everyone is giving her grief about how she needs to stop being so picky and get married, otherwise it will be too late, but when she finally, finally meets a guy she seems to click on, he turns out to be married.
But her reunion with the slick and gorgeous Francesco is short-lived, and she finds herself suddenly alone in Rome. Now, she must see if she has the courage to live outside the lines for the first time - and to face a past she never understood. It will take an unexpected friendship with a fiery Italian waitress, a whirlwind Vespa tour of the Eternal City with a handsome stranger, and a surprise encounter with an old acquaintance to show Cat that life doesn't always work out the way you expect, but sometimes you have to have fall in order to fly.
This gives Cat the kick she needs to do something crazy. Back when she was in college she spent a few months in Rome, which she enjoyed tremendously, not least because she had a torrid affair with a handsome young Italian. Spurred on by her anger and an encouraging colleague, she emails Francesco, who immediately invites her for a visit. And before she knows what's going on, she's off to Rome for a month.
I thought at the beginning that I knew exactly where the book was going. I went "Michael is actually this, and Francesco that, and she's going to this and that". And I was right about a lot, actually. However, I was wrong about the most important thing: it didn't feel predictable at all.
Once Cat is in Rome, the book becomes fresh and charming and absolutely beautiful, with a wonderful sense of place. There is some romance here, but it's understated. The story is more about Cat finding herself and grabbing life with both hands, and I enjoyed it tremendously.
MY GRADE: A B+.