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Escapist romantic drama
on 30 July 2014
Rosanna Menici is eleven years old when she meets rising opera singer Roberto Rossini; an encounter that will shape the future course of her life, as hearing her startlingly beautiful voice he encourages her to take singing lessons, and which later that evening prompts her to write in her diary that she will one day marry him. With the support of her brother Luca, Rosanna embarks on a journey that will take her away from her small life in Naples and grace the stages of the most famous opera houses in the world. It is a journey that will also see her cross paths with Roberto Rossini again; an intense and burning love striking up between them. Yet it is a love that is haunted by secrets from the past, not to mention threatened by its very own all consuming nature; a love that she can neither live with nor without.
I was interested to note that The Italian Girl was actually revised by Lucinda Riley, having initially been published under her previous pen name, and certainly it's style differs from her more recent 4 books. It is a much simpler story and told in a more straightforward way, without her usual dual time frame narrative, though she does still employ a framing device. Yet despite the fact that in some ways the novel was less ambitious in scope and format, I actually enjoyed it more than any of her other novels.
The story felt authentic, the characters well formed and overall more rounded and likable than in her more recent novels, even when their behaviour fell short. Furthermore, the central relationship was I felt more compelling than in any of her other books. At times it was perhaps over-sentimentalised, yet this grand passion with its tempestuous twists and turns suited the tone of the story against its operatic backdrop. Not only it was just the central relationship and characters that were well portrayed, but the peripheral characters too; and I absolutely loved Rosanna's brother Luca and thought his side story was interesting in its own right and a good contrast to Rosanna and Roberto's more dramatic story. Roberto I thought was particularly well portrayed; this great maestro in the opera world who despite being self-absorbed, prone to tantrums and with a penchance for drama, is still sympathetic even when his actions are abhorrent.
Not a difficult read, but an absorbing one for its rendition of a love both powerful yet destructive, that reads almost as if it is being played from the stage of an opera itself.