Summers in Supino - Maria Coletta McLean (2013)

There are amusing and touching moments in Maria and Bob's summers in this Italian village: their first visit to a pizzeria set up in a field, where they have to wait for a flock of sheep to pass before they can place their order; their dream of setting up a coffee shop in a crazily built house, and living in Italy for half of the year; the patio of their house that is constantly being altered by their neighbours whenever they go away; the views they stop to photograph on a long drive, of 'tiers of olive trees carpeted with nets, a parking garage on a rooftop, a tiny strip of pebble beach'. This first half of the book feels light, easy-going, cosy. When they return home to Toronto, Bob thinks how he'd like to be in Supino helping Peppe with the chestnut harvest, and wonders how he can replicate the Supino polenta festival when the City of Toronto doesn't allow outdoor fires. Then the tone changes dramatically as it all starts to go horribly wrong after he goes to the doctor to have a lump examined: Bob has cancer, and they don't know how serious it might be. It's hard to feel completely immersed in a story when someone is writing as part of a couple, 'Bob and I...' But as the gruesome news of his illness kicks in, you realise there's a reason why the author wrote it that way, and it also becomes clear that the story took place over a decade ago; for both of these reasons, it feels slightly distant, the characters of Supino never fully there. Somehow, the book only truly came to life for me when the author started to write about the horrors of knowing the man she loved might not survive. Read it with that in mind, and it's more poignant. (JB)

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