Monday, 2 April 2018

Book Review: The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore



Title: The Temptation of Gracie
Author: Santa Montefiore
Publication Date: 12 July 2018

Twitter: @santamontefiore

Blurb

Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long you hold on to them...

When Gracie Burton stumbles upon an advertisement for a week long cookery course in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, she cannot resist, and ploughs her life savings into the trip.

Her own family - daughter Carina and granddaughter Anastasia - are hesitant about what has prompted this seemingly random venture.

But they have no sense of Gracie's past; of what could possibly be calling her to Italy. They have no idea that Gracie is harbouring the secret of an extraordinary life that preceded them ...

Bestselling author, Santa Montefiore, returns with an unforgettable tale of love lost and rediscovered, set across the beautiful landscape of Italy.


Review

I should start by saying that I had never read any of the author's previous works before being sent a copy of The Temptation of Gracie by Books and the City, part of Simon & Schuster UK.

The Temptation of Gracie follows three generations as they travel to Tuscany to attend a week-long cookery course. When Devon-based grandmother Gracie first mentions her holiday plans, friends and family are horrified. Why would unremarkable, stay-at-home Gracie suddenly want to go gallivanting around Italy on her own?  Gracie sets off for Italy with her reluctant daughter and granddaughter in tow.

It is difficult to say too much more without giving spoilers, however I can say that the story gradually unfolds and blossoms into a tale of grand romance, adventure, secrets and lies spanning the decades. 

The characters within the story are a delight. Gracie is a wonderful protagonist and it was lovely to see the development of Carina and Anastasia as the tale progressed. I also enjoyed reading the scenes featuring the pretentious, Flappy Scott-Both, who added an air of light-relief to the story (particularly for those of us who will remember the formidable Hyacinth Bucket from the BBC series 'Keeping Up Appearances').

The book has a great sense of place. I could almost feel the thick heat of the summer sun and sense the fragrant smells of the orange trees mixed with the tomatoes and basil of Mamma Bernadetta's delicious home cooking. More than anything I just wanted to be there, experiencing those sights and smells that are so compelling as to, in that very moment, be able to change the way a person views their life and priorities.

The Temptation of Gracie explores the relationships between the three woman and highlights just how little we may know about our own family, particularly if we are not interested enough to ask.  It's easy to forget that a mother is more than just a caregiver, she will likely have had her own adventures before becoming a parent. This is something we should all remember to ask our parents about - their lives before us. We might end up being a bit surprised.

I was reading The Temptation of Gracie around the time of my recently deceased grandmother's funeral and, as we were sorting through her possessions, I think the book made me look at some of the little trinkets and knick-knacks differently, wondering what stories and memories lay behind them.

This is a love story, but not purely in the sense one might expect - it is a love letter to the Tuscan countryside, a tenderness for an era past, affection for one's family and, of course, the all-encompassing romance between two people. 

I particularly loved one paragraph within the tale where Gracie is discussing love and heartbreak. She wisely advises that "It's okay to have your heart broken ..... A broken heart teaches you wisdom, compassion for others and understanding. It digs another layer into your being, making you more worldly and aware. It is a part of the great experience of life."  This sentence speaks the truth. Experiences, both good and bad, make us who we are and it is very possible that those people we meet whose characters seem to be somewhat lacking, they may have flowed a bit too easily through life without taking the time to stop and experience those pivotal character-building moments.

The Temptation of Gracie is poignant, timeless and heartfelt. It is pure escapism for the heart and the senses - a truly enchanting tale.

About the Author


Born in England in 1970 Santa Montefiore grew up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at Sherborne School for Girls. She read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University and spent much of the 90s in Buenos Aires, where her mother grew up. She converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, The live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. 




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