Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
An Italian family saga spanning decades with a complex central heroine? You better believe my half-Italian ass was here for that.
Every so often I come across what I call a “6 star book” and this book was one of them. It was an utterly perfect and sublime reading experience and is the kind of book that reminds me just why reading is so important to me. Any second of spare time I could scrounge up was spent reading this book and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it.
The novel takes us from World War One era Calabria through to present day Connecticut and follows the story of the Fortuna family, focusing primarily on Stella Fortuna, the titular heroine. The story has a real sense of time and place and the Calabrian village Stella spends her early years in was captured beautifully. Never have I wanted to visit an impoverished, remote Italian mountain village as I have reading this book.
The story interweaves the events of Stella’s numerous near death experiences with the stories of the other members of the Fortuna family. The story is tragic and beautiful and the rather fanciful premise manages to feel perfectly believable and credible. The numerous heart-stopping and tragic moments are delivered in a matter of fact way which makes their impact all the more striking.
As a heroine, Stella is multi-layered and complex and it is impossible not to get genuinely invested in her story. We experience her powerlessness as opportunities are lost and sometimes forcibly taken from her. We are spectators to her relationships with her imperfect family and the men she meets along her journey.
The Italian-American experience and the real life social history was captured perfectly and the female relationships in particular were on point.
This is no easy read, don’t expect happy endings for everyone but if you appreciate beautifully written, multi-generational family sagas you’d be a fool not to read this one.