After having read The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley, I knew I had to seek out some of her other work, because I absolutely loved that novel. I loved her writing in that novel and I can say that with The Italian Girl it’s the same. With the novel being almost 600 pages, I didn’t pick it up immediately, but when I did it didn’t take me long to finish it. For such a lengthy novel, it reads rather quickly, because you get swept up in the story.
Rosanna Menici is a 11 year old girl who lives with her parents in a small town in Naples and works in her family’s pizza café. She has an extraordinary singing talent, which her parents aren’t aware of, until she met Roberto Rossini, an opera singer, at his parents’ wedding anniversary, which were held at the café. When Rosanna gets a chance to perform, Roberto tells her that she has a talent and needs to develop it by taking singing lessons. But her family doesn’t have the money to send her. Her wonderful brother, Luca, spends most of his money paying for Rosanna’s singing lessons, to help her make her dream come true to become an opera singer at La Scala, an opera house in Milan.
When Rosanna wins a scholarship to a prestigious school for the arts, she and Luca moves to Milan and leaves her sister, Carlotta, and her father behind in Naples. This is where she runs into Roberto again, the man she fell in love with when she was only eleven years old. Roberto, however, is an arrogant, self-obsessed, adulterous man. Definitely not the type of man Rosanna had in mind as the man of her dreams, even though it is clear that her brother and best friend don’t approve of him. There must be a reason why her brother does not like Roberto…
Here follows a story of obsessive love, ambition and betrayal. The story plays off mostly in beautiful Italy, but also London, New York and Milan as Rosanna’s career falls into place and she is travelling the world from one glittering opera house to another. The story however does not concentrate that much on the setting, but is rather character driven. Rosanna’s character grew a lot in this novel and so did my opinion of her. I admired the young Rosanna, with the talent, ambition and determination to meet her goals, until she fell for Roberto. She became obsessed with him and gave up a lot to make him happy and be with him. Needless to say, I didn’t like Rosanna as an adult. There is also a secondary love story – of Luca and Rosanna’s best friend, Abi. It was a hopeless love story at first, with Luca struggling to choose between his love for God and his love for Abi, but in the end, it all worked out.
The novel has many elements that made it enjoyable, as I’ve said it has love, ambition, betrayal with characters ranging from a talented girl who turns into an obsessive and weak woman in love, a woman whose life didn’t turn out the way she wanted, a man torn between his future and love, a desperate mistress who strives on manipulation and control. They are all there and in some parts of the book you will find some comic relief too. There are also some treachery – about stolen art and deceit. What interested me most about this story is the story of betrayal. It’s what I read towards – how it would affect the characters that is yet to learn of it and what would happen after they find out. I think I’m happy with the way it ended. If you like stories about family secrets, betrayal and how it affects the life of others, whether hidden or after it came out, you’ll like this one.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan SA, for review consideration