Review: Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino
Under Italian Skies
Orion Books, $35
Nicky Pellegrino's new novel, Under Italian Skies, is infused with warmth. Not just the warmth of those alluring Italian skies, but a warmth of writing.
I have a weakness for Italian settings, so this felt like a perfect companion for a Ruapehu road trip. I was utterly charmed.
London-based Stella is an assistant to a fashion designer. Life is good, but when Milly dies of cancer, the thriving design business dies with her, and Stella is forced to reinvent herself.
Stella is 49, has no children, is mortgage free and has ample savings. She decides to test out an adult gap year.
Stella swaps her noisy London flat for Leo's dreamy villa near the coastal town of Triento. Pellegrino invented the town for an earlier novel, which gives her considerable licence to imagine.
Yet this town pulsates with real life on the page. It feels so Italian. Perhaps it is because Pellegrino can draw on childhood visits to her Southern Italian family and her extended sojourns as an adult writer in Maratea.
So much to love about this book. I love the way food — blistered peppers, thin ribbons of pasta, fried hyacinth bulbs, artichoke salads — make you salivate for Italy. I love the matrix of complicated women that interfere in each other's lives.
I love the scrapbook Leo left for Stella. Each page an antidote to homesickness (as if!) with things to do, see, cook, discover. People to meet. And I loved the unfolding connections between Leo and Stella by email.
Reading this felt like a welcome ticket to Southern Italy. I could smell the coast, hike down to the salty sea and savour the story in my mouth.
Pellegrino is a prolific novelist with eight previous titles. I loved this one, so I am about to track down the rest.