4 out of 4 stars
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Stroll the streets of Florence and soak up its history and beauty in Jule Selbo’s new novel, Piazza Carousel.
Every year Lyn travels to Florence to run a writers’ seminar. This year she has a different purpose as she is wanting to utilise her time in Italy to also research her mother’s past. Her mother was a Mud Angel, one of the many volunteers who helped save priceless artwork from devastating flood waters in 1966. Growing up with these stories, Lyn wants to rediscover her mother and base her next book on her time in Florence. However, in doing so Lyn learns more about betrayal, loss, love and the importance of friendship than she thought possible. Will she be able to get past her own emotional obstacles in order to do her mother’s story justice?
Written in first person from Lyn’s point of view, the reader is able to see everything from her perspective and empathise along with her as she discovers both secrets and joy. Not only is Lyn herself a relatable character with all her flaws and hopes, there is a nice contrast between her and her friend, Valentina, an outspoken, confident young Italian woman who will let nothing get in her way. Lyn’s husband, Stan, is portrayed well as dislikeable and arrogant and it’s easy for the reader to empathise with Lyn. The other characters are vividly described bringing a realism and depth to the story. The people involved in the writing seminar have very strong personalities and ideals and this helps to portray that while people may come from a diverse range of backgrounds, commonality can always be found.
The writing style itself moves with a smooth flow, making it an exceptionally easy book to read. The story is punctuated with historical references which I, as someone who knows nothing about Florence, found both lovely and interesting. The beautiful imagery, as well as the finesse with which the book was written, is all the more surprising given that it is the author’s first novel.
There is a wonderful underlying theme in this book of disaster or hardship being overcome and then rebuilding from the ruins. Whether this is after a natural disaster like the flood, or from an emotional disaster such as a betrayal of a friend or loved one. It’s not an overly emphasised theme which makes it all the more appealing.
The love interest also fits in well with the flow of the story. It never feels forced, as it sometimes does in a story, and the relationship develops naturally with everyday ups and downs adding to its realistic portrayal.
There is very little I could find to criticise in this book, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I found reading it was like curling up with a hot chocolate on a rainy day and I therefore rate it 4 out of 4 stars. Classified as other fiction, it could almost fall into the romance genre, but there is something about it which adds an extra quality. This is a book for a wide audience, especially those who like to travel or want to fall in love with the beauty and history of Florence. A well-deserved congratulations to the author.
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