The Right Place…
About the Book:
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.
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.
I will confess that it was the cover that initially drew me to The Right Place. It just has a gorgeous rustic appeal that had my fingers hovering. Then my eyes landed on the author name: Carla Caruso. Now, this is not Carla’s first novel, but it is the first one of hers that I’ve read. She’s no stranger to me though as I’m quite familiar with Carla’s words from her frequent articles in the RWA member’s publication, Hearts Talk. The point of this waffle is that while the cover and the author may have drawn me to The Right Place, it was the warmly welcoming story and the wonderfully authentic characters that pinned me to the novel for the better part of a weekend. In a nutshell, this novel was sublime perfection.
Carla writes in a manner that just scoops you up and plonks you down into her fictional world. I felt so immersed into this story, so entertained by the characters, particularly the larger than life ones like Fabiana, Nella’s good friend. She was wonderful, I just loved her to bits! Nella herself was a genuine lead who I liked a lot. She had such a good heart and was always motivated to do the right thing in any situation. She didn’t always get it right, but her intent was always genuine. I so enjoyed seeing her blossom in this life that she viewed as temporary, taking steps to take charge of her life in a way she hadn’t previously. And I felt so bad for her every time Adrian, her grumpy yet glamorous neighbour, was mean or dismissive of her. She was like little miss sunshine, rolling with it and persevering. I do really enjoy a later in life coming of age story.
Nella’s story was skillfully punctuated by that of her nonna’s, in the years after Esta had immigrated to Australia. Nella finds her nonna’s cookbook and this, along with other items that Nella unearths while cleaning up the house, form a link between the two women that connects their shared experiences across time. I loved the authenticity of Esta and her feelings about her new country. I shed a few tears here and there over Esta, her story was overall entirely moving. I particularly liked the friendship Esta developed with her neighbour Mabel, which wonderfully, despite their initial cultural barrier, stood the test of time.
“And in that moment, she realised that beneath their cultural differences, the countries of origin on their passports, they were the same too. Women. Wives. Nurturers.”
What really worked for me though with these sections was the seamless link between Esta and Nella. This was never at any point two stories running alongside separated by a generation. There was a symmetry to what Carla offered us, and a true purpose to her story. It was very well done.
Now, onto the grumpy neighbour, who really was just a wounded little boy hiding inside a tough man’s body. I thought Adrian’s story was rather sad, the origins of his rift with his brother and his estrangement from his mother. Even his complicated relationship with his father. But his love for his home and his work, his passion about market gardening, all weighed in his favour. There were some highly entertaining moments between him and Nella as she wheedled her way into his business and generally got under his skin. Despite his gruff and growl, I liked him a lot and was championing his triumph.
Set on a market garden, there is a strong food lit vibe to this story that had me salivating. Along with all of the vegetable pickling, pasta rolling, and passata making going on, Carla has also treated us with the inclusion of some authentic Italian family recipes. There’s something about the combination of starting over, scrumptious food, good friends, and unexpected romance that works its magic over me.
“Even if things hadn’t panned out exactly as she’d envisaged, even if they’d experienced good times and bad, her heart had never felt fuller. Sometimes you didn’t know what you wanted in life until you had a chance to taste it, to allow the medley of flavours to fully sink in.”
The Right Place really hit all of the right notes for me. It’s warm hearted, poignantly touching, delicious and romantic, with a bit of funny thrown in. A gorgeous addition to the growing category of food lit novels we are being treated to here in Australia. With the exception of those tears I shed over Esta, I pretty much had a huge smile on my face for the whole time I was reading this novel, and you really can’t ask for more than that.
Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia via Netgalley for providing me with a copy of The Right Place for review.
About the Author:
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, grew up amid a boisterous extended Italian family – yet somehow managed to become a bookworm. Carla always wanted to be a novelist, annoying the kindergarten teachers by dictating long, detailed stories to them. It just took her a while to realise her childhood dream – journalism seemed a more practical course. Her media career has included stints as a newspaper and magazine journalist, government PR and fashion stylist. These days, she works as a freelance journalist and copywriter. She began seriously writing fiction three years ago when she went freelance full-time. The romance genre appeals as she is a sucker for rom-coms (especially if Channing Tatum is in the mix) and likes to think her Italian ancestry means she lives with passion. Hobbies include watching trashy TV shows, fashion (her mum named her after Carla Zampatti!), astrology and running.
The Right Place
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Imprint – HQ Fiction Au
Released on 20th August 2018
Available in Paperback and eBook