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Review: The Right Place by Carla Caruso

on August 29, 2018

The Right Place 
Carla Caruso
HQ Fiction
2018, 320p
Copy courtesy Harlequin AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Can the past show you the way home? Charming and memorable, The Right Place is an Australian novel, combining warm romance with family drama and the longing to fit in. Perfect for readers who love The Missing Pieces of Us by Fleur McDonald and Josephine Moon.

With her dreams of dominating Melbourne’s fashion scene in tatters, Nella Martini has returned to the last place she wants to be – Torrente Blu, the market garden inherited from her late nonna. She just needs to clean up the property, sell it quickly, and avoid run-ins with her neighbour: surly Adrian Tomaso. But when Nella comes across her nonna’s cookbook things start to change. The place, with its endless tomato plants and gallons of olive oil in storage, gets under her skin, as does Adrian with his passion for this life. But her dreams have always meant being anywhere but here – haven’t they? Or has the right place been here all this time? For Esta Feliciano in the 1950s, the right place was her Italian village. But in search of a better life than war-torn Italy has to offer, her husband has moved Esta and their daughter to this alien country, settling on a small, flat piece of land that he calls Torrente Blu. Can Esta come to grips with the harsh Australian sun and strange culture?

Woven with traditional Italian recipes, The Right Place is the heartfelt story of two women’s journeys, as they discover how the right place to call home can be where you make it…

The cover of this book is beautifully eye-catching but I also read it because fellow blogger Theresa Smith absolutely sang its praises and we do like quite a lot of the same books so I thought this was something I might enjoy. Also as I’ve mentioned lots of times before, my husband’s family are Italian and although my father-in-law didn’t have a market garden, he turned most of their standard quarter acre block into a huge family garden, growing enough vegetables to feed his large extended family and enough Roma tomatoes to make 200 long neck bottles of their own passata-style sauce every year. At last count there was probably a couple thousand bottles in his garage! So I knew a lot of this would be familiar and relatable as well. I’ve always envied my father-in-law’s garden and the idea of inheriting something similar to what Nella does in this book is very appealing.

When Nella inherits the property, she’s not really interested in keeping it. She’s long left the suburbs of Adelaide behind for Melbourne and a career in fashion. The house her grandmother left her will be just the kick she needs to reboot her career after her last venture didn’t go quite right. So she plans to briefly stay to clear out the house of her Nonna’s things and get it ready for sale. Unfortunately it comes with a slight complication – her Nonna’s land is leased to the next door neighbour to double his market garden and Adrian Tomaso is someone Nella wants to avoid but not disadvantage. But the longer she spends at the place that holds so many memories for her, the more it begins to get under her skin. Soon she is enthused with ideas on how to help Adrian spread the word of his organic vegetables and bring in more business. She cannot cook but when she finds a book of her Nonna’s recipes, she’s inspired to learn using the freshest of produce grown right outside her back door. And then there’s Adrian himself, definitely a drawcard once they put their differences aside.

This is a beautifully written book that showcases not only Nella’s story of returning home and discovering herself all over again, but also the story of her grandmother, Esta who came to Australia as a young bride after WWII. Actually probably similar to the time in which my mother-in-law made the journey out here as a young, unaccompanied teen to join her older sister who was already living here, married and with several children. Because I’ve heard my MIL tell her story so many times, I could relate to Esta as well, who struggled in this completely alien environment with little in the way of support. She also faced several devastating personal losses which were heartbreaking but I enjoyed seeing her friendship with her neighbour grow and flourish and last years. Nella spent many summers with her grandmother, much the way I did as a child and it’s the sort of thing that forms a pretty tight bond and Nella’s grief is evident on every page as she faces a life without this woman that shaped her. I loved the way she connected with her grandmother again through cooking her recipes – and all of those recipes I’ve seen grace my mother-in-law’s kitchen on numerous occasions. I feel as though that generation of women, no matter where they are from, cook in an entirely different way. My own nan, in her 80s now, is an amazing cook with a stack of tried and true recipes she probably learned from her mother and grandmothers that reside in her head ready to be pulled out at any relevant moment. She honestly wouldn’t ever consider chucking something frozen into the oven and she’s never ordered take away in her life. She’s written down a few of her baking recipes for me and I’ve started a book myself because my mother doesn’t know and to be honest, isn’t really interested in any of these recipes.

I enjoyed this so much – in fact I really only had one tiny bother and that was what Adrian uses as a base to criticise Nella. The fact that she left town and moved to Melbourne and also that she comes back at first wanting to sell the inherited property and go back to her life, which to be honest, I don’t think is anything to be critical over. Not everyone is destined to stay where they grew up. Some fly away and return, having discovered that where they’re meant to be is where they started. But it’s not fair to judge her because she wanted something different and went after it. Adrian seems quite bitter about it and what does it matter? She tried something she thought she was passionate about, maybe it didn’t quite work out for her and inheriting her Nonna’s property gave her some different priorities and she learned quite a lot about herself. She’s only about thirty in the book, so that’s really still quite young and you’re still learning so much about yourself at that age. So it did actually bother me quite a bit, him saying like she thinks she’s too good for that area. When Adrian wasn’t retreating to that, I really did quite like him and the conflict around him and his brother was really well done. I sort of understood perhaps his feelings of rejection but it just seemed like a really snarky thing to try and pick on and judge her for.

But that’s a small thing really. For me, this was all about Nella’s journey and that acceptance of herself and what her dreams were and that coming home feeling. I really enjoyed all of the recipes, the focus on the fresh ingredients and Esta’s story woven in was lovely as well. This was very enjoyable and although I’ve read and enjoyed Carla Caruso’s books before, this was my favourite so far and I’ll be looking forward to her next book.

8/10

Book #141 of 2018

 


2 responses to “Review: The Right Place by Carla Caruso

  1. Yes! That bugged me about Adrian too, the constant judgement based upon his own life path and personal choices. I’m glad you liked it and thanks for the mention! All that passata! Too bad if anyone in the family doesn’t like tomatoes! 😁

    • Haha funnily enough, the only person that doesn’t like it is me! It’s the fact that it’s made with Romas, they’re just far too rich and acidic for me to have it as a pasta sauce. Although my FIL uses it as the sauce on his homemade pizza and because it’s used REALLY sparingly, I can eat it that way. His pizzas are to die for.

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