The Villa by Rosanna Ley was one of those 99p, spur of the moment, Kindle grabs that I suspect quite a few people have indulged in over the last year or so. Sicily was the draw for me, I must admit, having become addicted to Inspector Montalbano and, to a slightly lesser extent, Young Montalbano, on BBC iPlayer and fallen for the Sicilian scenery and architecture, a book set there was an absolute no brainer.
The plot of this book is centred around three women.
Flavia: A seventeen year old young woman living with her parents on the island of Sicily during WW2. It's a claustrobic existence, girls are not free to do as they please, controlled by their fathers mainly, even to the extent of telling them who they're going to marry. But Flavia is different, she wants another kind of life and when she discovers a young British airman in the wreckage of a glider she senses another world to which she can aspire.
Tess: Flavia's daughter is in her late thirties. She has a good job in England but has just been passed over for a promotion which she feels she should've got. Mother of a teenage daughter, just spreading her wings, Tess feels she's at a crossroads and gives in her notice at work. When news comes that she's inherited a villa on the island of Sicily from a man she doesn't know, Tess's astonishment turns to 'what if...' but there's a snag: her mother is vehemently against her going to Sicily to solve this mystery.
Ginny: Tess's eighteen year old daughter is just taking her A levels. It's assumed she will then go on to uni as she's clever but this is not at all what she wants. Her father disappeared before she was born, leaving her mother, Tess, to bring her up on her own. The two have always been very close but that's changing as Ginny grows up, discovers boys, keeps secrets.
So Tess, does go off to Sicily, naturally. And Things Transpire. She discovers a long-standing family feud, tackles a years old mystery and realises that she is entitled to a life of her own but... what about the ties of history? Sicily is not called a 'dark island' for nothing, something her mother, Flavia, knows only too well.
Sometimes these 99p random grabs turn out to be little gems and so it was with The Villa. Yes, it is a light read, there are elements of romance and holidayitus, but there's also a lot of history, a whole culture to discover, strong depictions of the life problems we all encounter along the way. I liked reading about the cuisine of Sicily via Flavia's writings, I loved the secluded little coastal town where the villa is, and there was good depth of characterisation, the people were not cardboard cutouts, they felt very real and so did their problems.
Rosanna Ley is a new author ro me but she's written a whole clutch of books set all over Europe and further afield. I realise I do actually have another hers on my Kindle, (anyone else got no clue what's lurking on there?) The Saffron Trail, set in Morocco. Very intrigued by that so will get to it soon.