The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Tag Archives: Italy

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom


I recently received from The Library Thing, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom (B+) by Alison Love a World War II novel with a slightly different approach.

Antonio Trombetta and several members of his family have moved from Lazio, Italy to London. His dad leases a kiosk where he sells candy and tobacco; his sister Filomena works at the local laundry. Antonio is in pursuit of a singing career. His beautiful voice has allowed him to supplement the family income by singing in local restaurants and bars. While working one night at the Paradise Ballroom, he meets Olivia, a dancer. Though married and expecting his first child, Antonio falls hopelessly in “forbidden” love with her.

As the novel develops, the atmosphere in Europe and especially in London begins to change. War is inevitable. Hitler and Mussolini are both aggressively stomping around Europe. In London, foreigners are now all under suspicion and eventually those with leanings toward the fascist movement are removed from their homes and families and held captive.

Historical fiction, yet mostly a love story, The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is entertaining. The complicated love affair between Antonio and Olivia is the main attraction with supporting stories from other family members and world events.

I have felt lately that the market is a bit saturated with novels about World War II; however, there was something that caught my eye and attention in The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom. I honestly enjoyed the novel more than I expected and hope that you will be surprised by it as well. The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is definitely one to check out.

The Light in the Ruins



Hard to imagine that Chris Bohjalian could write anything more dramatic than The Sandcastle Girls but he has with The Light in the Ruins (B+).

Written like a diary entry, the very first page is narrated by a ruthless murderer. Honestly, it is the most dramatic book opening I have ever read. If it had been written by anyone other than Chris Bohjalian, I would have put it down.  However, I have come to know that his novels are always worth the read even if I have to read with my teeth clenched. 

It’s 1944; war is in the air. The Rosati’s family villa in the south of Florence is well protected. Antonio and Beatrice Rosati, the Marchese and Marchesa, have two sons and a daughter. The villa is a thriving farm with livestock, olive tress and beautiful views. While the sons are active soldiers, their daughter Cristina enjoys her days spent at the villa entertaining her niece and nephew that is, until the Nazis invade their privacy.

Eleven years later, a female police officer is investigating the gruesome murder of Francesca Rosati.  She is the first murdered in a plan that if successful with eliminate the entire family.

Serafina is scarred from burns that almost killed her as she fought with the partisans against the Nazis during the war.  Being left for dead, there is little that she remembers. As the Rosati murder investigation progresses; she begins to piece things together.

Bohjalian combines historical fiction and suspenseful mystery into this well-written novel. While I found the story a bit too graphic at times, I was propelled through the story finishing it in one day. Clearly, not for the feint of heart The Light in the Ruins is definitely one to read. 

Imperfect Pairings

I recently received an advance copy of Imperfect Parings (B+) by Jackie Townsend. I found this book enchanting.  Most of the story takes place in Italy and is so well situated that I felt like I was there the entire time.

Jamie is a young woman working toward making junior partner at her firm, a position unlikely for a woman.  Through her job she meets Jack an MIT graduate and engineer. They keep their relationship secret because it is against company policy. Jack receives a wedding invitation for a cousin in Italy.  Only then, does Jamie realize that Jack is not an American but an Italian who’s real name is Giovanni.

Once in Italy, she is introduced to a very different Jack. His large family lives in a villa that surrounds a vineyard; a vineyard that Jack has inherited.  While there, both their lives begin to change.  Giovanni decides to take on the responsibility of keeping the vineyard running. Jamie starts to realize what it’s like to be part of a big family.

The story moves between the US and Italy at a pretty rapid pace.  Jamie and Jack marry in order for Jack to get a green card.  A marriage of convenience slowly becomes much, much more.  Jamie is taken by surprise at the strong feelings she has for Jack, feelings she stifles most of the story. Giovanni begins to share his family secrets with Jamie, secrets that consume them both. The goal to make and sell the best wine from the Ruffoli vineyard is almost impossible to achieve but together Jamie and Giovanni accomplish great things both with the wine and their relationship.  In the process, Jamie finally realizes her full self.

At times the story seemed to move too fast leaving me a bit confused.  I think it mirrored the internal frenzy of both the characters. Jackie Townsend must come from an Italian family because coming from one myself; I know she got it right. Imperfect Pairings taught me some Italian and made me yearn for a sip of the wine they poured. I think you should taste it for yourself.  You will find it molto bene!