One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?

– Rebecca Serle, “One Italian Summer”

Review:

After reading In Five Years by the same author and enjoying it immensely, I had some high hopes for this book. I shouldn’t have. In part, this book was a victim of my expectations and in part, it was, subjectively, a bit of a hot mess.

One Italian Summer starts out just after the death of Katy’s mother, Carol. Katy still thinks of Carol as not only her mother, but her best friend, and the absolute love her life. But, as the novel asks, when the love of your life is your mother, what does that make your husband?

Katy’s husband, Eric, is nothing but supportive of Katy in her grief, even when Katy leaves him and her father, who is still reeling in his own depressive stupor, to take a solo trip to Italy for two weeks. Katy and Carol had been planning to go together, so when Katy arrives in Positano, Italy, alone, she is surprised to see someone very familiar. Almost immediately after entering Hotel Poseidon, Katy sees her mother, Carol, exactly as she was at 30 years old, when she had gone on a similar trip alone to find herself. Now Katy has the opportunity to meet this woman that she is convinced is somehow her mother in a completely different way than she knew her before. But not all of it will be sunshine and daisies.

So, I’ve already said that I disliked this book. I’m certainly not against the time travel trope (here’s looking at you, Outlander). It can be done well, and this had potential. What I hated most was, well, Katy. She was completely flat. Her grief didn’t feel real to me. Her insane devotion to her mother didn’t feel real to me. Her shock at discovering that her mother was a person before she became “Katy’s mother” didn’t feel real either. However, Katy did feel juvenile, selfish, and naïve.

I can live with a character I don’t like. Heck, some characters are meant to be unlikable. I don’t think that was the intention with Katy though. It all went completely downhill when Katy met Adam at the hotel and then proceeded to spend ALL of her time with this new man, conveniently forgetting that she had a husband who she had been unspeakably cruel to when she left the country. I don’t feel like Katy earned the lessons she learned and the lack of consequences for what happened in Italy (in multiple points with multiple characters) meant that the book crash landed and sort of limped on home.

It wasn’t a dumpster fire, I guess, but it wasn’t great either. So many things about this book didn’t make sense. It also wound up sneaking in my most hated trope, but I’ll leave that vague as to avoid spoilers. Overall, the first book I read by this author might be in my top five reads of the year so far, but this one has likely earned a spot on my top five worst list.

“History, memory is by definition fiction. Once an event is no longer present, but remembered, it is narrative. And we can choose the narratives we tell—about our own lives, our own stories, our own relationships. We can choose the chapters we give meaning.”

– Rebecca Serle, “One Italian Summer”

Pros:

  • Beautiful descriptions of scenery.
  • Interesting mother figure who becomes her own character beyond her daughter’s memories.

Cons:

  • Plot feels sloppy. No one pays for anything and there are several places where things don’t feel real.
  • The co-dependency Katy feels for her mother comes across as juvenile and creepy, and not genuine at all.
  • There is little to no emotional reckoning with the fact that Katy is married and has feelings for another man or consequences for how she treats her husband.
  • Emotionally distant main character who is difficult to connect to because I never felt her grief or her love.

Rating:

  • ⭐⭐

“I hope you walk through the world knowing your value. I hope you find a passion–something you love, something that lights you up inside. I hope you find the peace and confidence it takes to trust where your path leads. Remember it is only yours. Others can wave and cheer, but no one can give you directions. They have not been where you are going. I hope you will understand someday that just because you become a mother doesn’t mean you stop becoming a woman. And above all else, I hope you know that even if you can’t see me, I am always with you.”

– Rebecca Serle, “One Italian Summer”

Recommended For:

  • People who enjoy the time travel trope.
  • Those who wish they could rediscover a relative in a new light.
  • Anyone who really wants to go to Italy but has never been.

Books to Read if You Loved One Italian Summer:

Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)

  • What is one literature trope that you genuinely cannot stand?
  • What was your favorite thing about the 90s?
  • If you could go on a solo two week trip to any country, where would you go and why?

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