I’m sharing my thoughts on the The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni. A story that has history, mystery, romance and baking.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1020 KB
Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (19 April 2018)
The scent of freshly baked biscuits, lemon and aniseed reminds Elettra of her mother’s kitchen. But her mother is in a coma, and the family bakery is failing. Elettra is distraught; she has many unanswered questions about her mother’s childhood – Edda was a secretive woman. The only clue is a family heirloom: a necklace inscribed with the name of an island.
Elettra buys a one-way ticket to that island, just off the coast of Sardinia. Once there, she discovers a community of women, each lost in their own way. They live in a crumbling convent, under threat from the local mayor and his new development plan. It is within the convent’s dark corridors and behind its secret doors that Elettra discovers a connection to her mother’s past. She also falls in love again: with friendship, baking and adventure.
Available to purchase in digital, paperback and audiobook formats.
Elettra’s quest to find out more about her mother’s past is prompted by an otherworldly encounter while visiting her mother, Edda, in hospital. Having previously given up her own hopes and dreams, she becomes driven by an all encompassing passion to uncover the secrets she’s grown up with and sets off for the convent of Saint Elizabeth on Titan’s Island.
The moment Elettra sets foot on the island there is mystery in what she sees and throughout the story there are mysteries to uncover with the residents in the community. Much is hidden which makes it difficult for Elettra to find out anything so she has to use subterfuge herself to glean anything of meaning. With the economy failing and the islanders spirits already downtrodden, the fight with the mayor seems insurmountable. It’s going to take something special to reawaken the memories of the old ones of how it used to be on the island …
Valentina Cebeni’s writing style is poetic which drew me in to the settings and the people. I enjoyed experiencing a very difficult culture to my own! I did find it difficult to like Elettra … with her quest seeming to exclude everything else I found her cold and dismissive and I couldn’t warm to her at all. It’s a shame we didn’t get to know her when her own dreams and desires were burning brightly as I think it’s possible she would have been a very different person. My favourite character has to be Isabelle. Down to earth, she’s a women with wisdom to share with those around her.
The time Elettra spends in the convent bakery brings magic with the ingredients coming together. I loved this! For me this offset the overall feeling of melancholy of this story. (If you enjoy baking you’ll love that recipes are interspersed at strategic points throughout the story, recipes such as the important Pane All’Anice).
This story is not a light and summery read as you might imagine from the cover and the setting. Yes there is friendships, love, baking, community and hope but there’s also the underside of life … secrets, greed and politics, domestic violence and ignorance. The overall feeling for me was one of melancholy.
The Little Italian Bakery shows us there are no wrong decisions – that we will find our way eventually and be all the richer for the experiences we have along the way.