Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long you hold on to them . . .
When Gracie Burton stumbles upon an advertisement for a week-long cookery course in the heart of the Tuscan countryside,she cannot resist, and ploughs her life savings into the trip.
Her only family – daughter Carina and granddaughter Anastasia – are hesitant about what has prompted this seemingly random venture. But they have no sense of Gracie’s past; of what could possibly be calling her to Italy. They have no idea that Gracie is harbouring the secret of an extraordinary life that preceded them . . .
Yet another enticing cover, and one that paves the way for a story that I certainly wouldn’t have guessed at.
Gracie Burton is a 68-year-old widow, she’s cautious, unadventurous and likes to stay out of the limelight. Which is what makes her decision to book a holiday to Tuscany, to learn to cook Italian food all the more extra-ordinary. While it gives her neighbours in the village something to gossip about, it gives her daughter Carina something to worry about. The reality is, Carina hasn’t visited in a while, citing work and life commitments, so she’s not sure if her mother is seriously ill or losing her mind. Whatever the reason, she decides that shy, timid Gracie can’t possibly go on her own, so she and her teenage daughter Anastacia (Gracie’s granddaughter) will go as well.
I anticipated a story of a family rediscovering themselves and this was certainly part of the plot, but what I couldn’t envisage was the unfolding story of Gracie’s past. One that she had withheld from both her family and her husband. By returning to Italy, Gracie also re-discovered something of the vibrant and energetic woman she had been in her youth. As well as revealing a tale that shocked her family when all was revealed.
I loved Gracie from the start, and I enjoyed the village characters she had made her life among. From the pomposity of Flappy Scott-Booth who was everything her name suggests, to the gossipiness of Harry Pratt (who it transpired had a pretty big secret of his own). Her life in the little seaside village she’d been part of for 40 years was far removed from the life she’d led before she married Ted.
I took longer to warm to Carina, whose initial obsession with work, worldly trappings and not her mother, and to some degree her daughter irked me. Gracie was treated more like a maiden aunt, you keep meaning to visit, rather than a mother. Similarly, Gracie had no real relationship with Anastacia, as they never had the opportunity to bond. This trip, could either make or break the fragile threads, but you’ll need to discover that for yourself.
Gracie’s secret as it unfolds, is certainly a dramatic one. Initially I thought it too dramatic and implausible, but then that’s because I was probably guilty of pigeon-holing Gracie based on her current persona. Mea culpa, as all readers know, we should never judge a book by its cover (which I do – just look how I started this review!). So all I will say, is sit back and enjoy because it’s a compelling tale.
If you like your stories to have drama, romance, secrets (oh what secrets!), humour and of course food then this is the book for you. A perfect summer read, in fact a perfect anytime read.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read this is advance of publication.