Thursday, April 21, 2022

Two Reviews for Two Very Different Novels: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle and The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

 I've read two novels back to back that couldn't have been more different in mood, plot, and character. And that's a good thing for me. I can fall into reading the same style books over and over sometimes and it gets pretty comfortable. This was a great way to shake up my reading this month. 

I didn't read Rebecca Serle's first novel, In Five Years, but I know it had huge buzz and I may go back and read it. Author Gabrielle Zevin has a quote on the cover of this novel, and she wrote one of my favorite novels: Elsewhere (if you want an emotional punch to the gut and an ugly cry, read it). So I knew I would enjoy this novel and potentially bawl my eyes out, too. 

I didn't cry (phew!) but it certainly had an interesting concept to explore. Katy Silver's mother Carol has just died of cancer, and Katy is beyond devastated by this loss. Her husband Eric doesn't know how to reach her; her father is in a world of his own grieving. Katy's relationship with her mother was so close Katy relied on her for everything.

Katy and Carol had planned a trip to Italy, to the town of Positano to revisit a magical summer Carol spent there before she married and had Katy. Now Katy decides to go anyway, to grieve her mother and decide if she wants to stay with Eric. When I say Katy was grieving, I can't overstate her grief at losing her mother. 

Katy arrives at Positano, which is stunning and a balm for her soul. While she's there, exploring, holy buckets she comes across a woman named Carol. And yes, it's her mother, thirty years younger, enjoying Positano and vibrantly alive. Of course Carol has no idea Katy is her daughter; she thinks Katy is just another tourist. Together they explore Positano and the surrounding area, talking about life and choices women make. Katy can't figure out how this is possible, but she readily accepts this quirk in the universe and the chance to be with her mother one last time. 

I won't say more, because you just have to read it and take that leap of faith that something like this could happen, and who wouldn't want the chance to spend time with a loved one who is gone? Katy gets to see her mother as she never saw her before; a young woman with her life ahead of her, laughing, drinking, dancing, and making life choices that would, down the road, impact Katy. It also gives Katy a chance to think about her relationship with her mother, and how that lead Katy to where she is now-is she happy with Eric and their life? Could she have done more?

I enjoyed the setting (take me to Positano NOW), the exploration of grief and, of course, the chance to reconnect with someone dearly loved. That little bit of universal magic/cosmic wonder that brought Katy and Carol together in Positano is something you just have to embrace and go with or you'll lost the whole point of the novel. 

Okay-onto The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. 

I've read The Guest List, and I really liked it. I read it at the beginning of the Pandemic in 2020. I thought I'd devour this in one big gulp. I did not. You may have seen my TikTok review of this, but if not here's my take on The Paris Apartment.

I didn't care for any of the characters, and I think that was the point. I always say sometimes the best reads are where none of the characters are likable. However, I didn't like this nearly as much as I did The Guest List

The plot: Jess calls her brother Ben, who lives in Paris, and says "hey I'm coming to visit". Ben reluctantly agrees, and says he'll be waiting for her in his apartment. Jess arrives late at night, and can't get into the building. It's a ritzy looking place, and clearly money resides there. Not at all a place her brother would normally be, but heck, maybe he got lucky. 

Jess gets in the building, and into his apartment, only to find it empty. No Ben. He won't answer the phone and has left nothing to indicate where he might be. Broke and not speaking French, Jess is at a loss as to what to do. She runs into a few of the other apartment dwellers, and they're all a bit strange, even Ben's friend Nick, who got Ben the apartment. He promises to help Jess find Ben. 

Jess, through the tiniest bits of clues and information, starts to piece together that something isn't quite right in the building. Everyone from the rich woman in the penthouse (Sophie), to the odd duck Mimi, and the really odd duck known as the Concierge know something and Jess is either getting warnings to leave or running into danger in her search for Ben. What started out as "Geez, my brother is rude" unravels into "Something is really, really wrong". Jess isn't a world class detective, and she stumbles around uncovering the trail that leads to Ben's disappearance. 

It's a really weird plot. I was compelled to keep reading, though, because I had no idea where it would lead to; the hook is definitely there. However, uncovering everything just left me with an ick feeling. So read it if you want a quick thriller, but I'm on the fence with this one. 


5/6 for One Italian Summer. Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

3/6 for The Paris Apartment. Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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