Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

About the book

Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a fine Italian immigrant family in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1950. Fuelled by the post-war boom, in which talented girls with ambition are encouraged to follow their dreams, Lucia becomes an apprentice for a made-to-wear clothing designer at a chic department store on Fifth Avenue. Though she is sought after as a potential wife by the best Italian families, Lucia stays her course and works hard, determined to have a career. She juggles the roles of dutiful daughter and ambitious working girl perfectly. When a handsome stranger comes to the story and catches her eye, it is love at first sight for both of them. In order to win Lucia’s hand, he must first win over her traditional family and make the proper offer of marriage. Their love affair takes an unexpected turn as secrets are revealed, Lucia’s family honour is tested, and her own reputation becomes the centre of a sizzling scandal. Set in a time of possibility and change for women in America, in a city that celebrates its energy with style and elegance, LUCIA, LUCIA is the story of a girl who risks everything for the belief that a woman could – and should – be able to have it all.

Reviewed by Andrews Lodge

We all thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and gave an insight into an Italian family in 1950’s New York You didn’t want to put it down”

star rating ****

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

About the book

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara. Sixteen-year-old Serafina is fipped by her family from an illicit love affair and forced into the convent of Santa Caterina, renowned for its superb music. Serafina’s one weapon is her glorious voice, but she refuses to sing. Madonna Chiara, an abbess as fluent in politics as she is in prayer, finds her new charge has unleased a power play – rebellion, ecstasies and hysterias – within the convent. However, watching over Serafina is Zuana, the sister in charge of the infirmary, who understands and might even challenge her incarceration.

Reviewed by U3A Petersfield RG1

This novel was enjoyed by everyone in the group. It was well researched and well written and gave a real insight into a closed community. Politics and relationships within the convent were credibly conveyed, holding the reader’s interest. Tension was well maintained throughout. We will look out for other novels by the author

star rating ****

 

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

About the book

Frances Mayes – widely published poet, gourmet cook and travel writer – opens the door on a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. She finds faded frescoes beneath the whitewash in the dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles – and even a wayward scorpion under her pillow. And from her traditional kitchen and simple garden she creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes, all included in this book.
In the vibrant local markets and neighbouring hill towns, the author explores the nuances of the Italian landscape, history and cuisine. Each adventure yields delightful surprises – the perfect panettone, an unforgettable wine, or painted Etruscan tombs. Doing for Tuscany what Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion. A celebration of the extraordinary quality of life in Tuscany, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN is a feast for all the senses.

Reviewed by Selborne Book Circle:

Although all our group agreed that it was well written and very evocative of Tuscany sun, scenery, hill top towns and markets, some of us thought the theme of restoring old houses in foreign parts has become hackneyed. The rest of us enjoyed the book and felt it was almost as good as a holiday. We mostly felt that the recipes and wine sampling were excessive.

Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set

Acqua Alta by Donna Leon

About the book

Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice Questura is shocked to hear that Brett Lynch, a friend since a murder case at La Fenice, has suffered a savage beating.
The attack, in the beautiful palazzo home of Flavia Petrelli, reigning diva of La Scala, had come with a message: ‘Don’t keep that appointment with Dottor Semenzato.’
Then, with the storm clouds gathering fast over the city, a man’s body is found . .

Reviewed by Museum Book Group

A light enjoyable read. A reasonable plot with rather stereo typed characters. A look at Venice from the locals viewpoint.
Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set

Gardens of Delight by Erica James

About the book

The Gardens of Delight brochure promises the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful gardens in the Lake Como area of Italy. For Lucy, the chance to go to Italy offers more than just gardens. Lake Como is where her father lives, and the last time she saw him was when she was just a teenager.
Recently married Helen and her wealthy husband have just moved into the Old Rectory. With her husband spending so much time away from home, Helen throws herself into caring for the garden. But Helen needs help – and friends – and so decides to take the plunge and join the local Garden Club.
Conrad isn’t the least bit interested in gardening. Widowed for five years, his life revolves around work and humouring Mac, his elderly uncle who lives with him, and who has expressed a desire to go on the Gardens of Delight tour. Reluctantly, Conrad agrees to accompany him. ‘Anything for a peaceful life,’ he concedes. But a peaceful life is the last thing any of them are in for…

Reviewed by Enjoying Books Reading Group

This was an easy romantic read – as a novel of the genre it probably deserves more than 2* but was in no way a challenge, however we did finish it.
Star rating **

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

About the book

The third unforgettable historical love story set in Italy from Marina Fiorato, author of the bestseller THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO. For fans of Philippa Gregory, Sarah Dunant and Alison Weir. Florence looks like gold and smells like sulphur . . .In the colourful world of fifteenth-century Italy, Luciana Vetra is young and beautiful, a part-time model and full-time whore. When she is asked to pose as the goddess Flora for Sandro Botticelli’s painting La Primavera, she is willing to oblige – until the artist abruptly sends her away without payment. Affronted, she steals an unfinished version of the painting – only to find that someone is ready to kill her to get it back. As friends and associates are murdered around her, Luciana turns to the one man who has never tried to exploit her beauty, Brother Guido della Torre, a novice at the monastery of Santa Croce. Fleeing Florence together, Luciana and Guido race through the nine great cities of Renaissance Italy, desperately trying to decode the painting’s secrets before their enemies stop them.

Reviewed by Enthusiastic Readers Group:

An intriguing read with a feisty character as the main lead. A fast paced story for the most part. It very cleverly linked in with the painting and the story held all the group. In total – a very good read – great if you like a ‘Dan Brown’ story.

Star rating: ***/****

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

About the book

Alessandra is not quite fifteen when her prosperous merchant father brings a young painter back with him from Holland to adorn the walls of the new family chapel. She is fascinated by his talents and envious of his abilities and opportunities to paint to the glory of God. Soon her love of art and her lively independence are luring her into closer involvement with all sorts of taboo areas of life. On excursions into the streets of night-time Florence she observes a terrible evil stalking the city and witnesses the rise of the fiery young priest, Savanarola, who has set out to rid the city of vice, richness, even art itself. Alessandra must make crucial decisions about the shape of her adult life, as Florence itself must choose between the old ways of the luxury-loving Medicis and the asceticism of Savanorola. And through it all, there is the painter, whose love will change everything.

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

An intriguing novel set in Florence during the rule of Lorenzo Medici and influence of fanatic monk, Savonarola. The political and religious influence of the time affect the Cecci family. The story’s main theme is the youngest daughter and her black female slave. The life of women in Florence and their struggle for themselves in a male dominated society.

Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 

In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

About the book

With their stomachs churning on the jewels they have swallowed, the courtesan Fiammetta and her companion dwarf Bucino escape the sack of Rome. It’s 1527. They head for the shimmering, decadent city of Venice. Sarah Dunant’s epic novel of sixteenth-century Renaissance Italy is a story about the sins of pleasure and the pleasures of sin, an intoxicating mix of fact and fiction, and a dazzling portait of one of the worlds greatest cities at its most potent moment in history.

Reviewed by Goodworth Clatford WI reading group:

Very well written, vivid, characters lived. Setting familiar to those who had been to Venice. Language crude but fitted the time and scene.

Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella

About the book

Laura Patterson is an American exchange student in Rome who, fed up with being inexpertly groped by her young Italian beaus, decides there’s only one sure-fire way to find a sensual man: date a chef. Then she meets Tomasso, who’s handsome, young — and cooks in the exclusive Templi restaurant. Perfect. Except, unbeknownst to Laura, Tomasso is in fact only a waiter at Templi — it’s his shy friend Bruno who is the chef. But Tomasso is the one who knows how to get the girls, and when Laura comes to dinner he persuades Bruno to help him with the charade. It works: the meal is a sensual feast, Laura is utterly seduced and Tomasso falls in lust. But it is Bruno, the real chef who has secretly prepared every dish Laura has eaten, who falls deeply and unrequitedly in love.

Reviewed by The Olive Tree Reading Group:

Well liked, good holiday reading. Lots of discussion. One member made some of the recipes.

Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set