23 April 2017

Blog Tour Book Review: Under a Sardinian Sky by Sara Alexander

"Sometimes a family’s deepest silences hide the most powerful secrets.

For Mina, a London-based travel writer, the enigmatic silence surrounding her aunt Carmela has become a personal obsession.

Carmela disappeared from her Italian hometown long ago and is mentioned only in fragments and whispers. Mina has resisted prying, respectful of her family’s Sardinian reserve. But now, with her mother battling cancer, it’s time to learn the truth.

In 1952, Simius is a busy Sardinian town surrounded by fertile farms and orchards. Carmela Chirigoni, a farmer’s daughter and talented seamstress, is engaged to Franco, son of the area’s wealthiest family. Everyone agrees it’s a good match. But Carmela’s growing doubts about Franco’s possessiveness are magnified when she meets Captain Joe Kavanagh.

Joe, an American officer stationed at a local army base, is charismatic, intelligent, and married. Hired as his interpreter, Carmela resolves to ignore her feelings, knowing that any future together must bring upheaval and heartache to both families.

As Mina follows the threads of Carmela’s life to uncover her fate, she will discover a past still deeply alive in the present, revealing a story of hope, sacrifice, and extraordinary love."

Rating: 3.5/5

I have to be honest and say that I was initially drawn to reading this book because of its beautiful cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I can't help myself, and often find myself doing this. This is author Sara Alexander's debut novel, and is a book set on the Italian island of Sardinia. I don't personally know much about the location, so was looking forward to finding out much more about this lovely place with a new, exciting cast of characters. I went into this without expectation, and here is my honest review.

This book is the story of a Sardinian native called Carmela, and her family, the Chirigoni's. The book is set in 1952 so is a historical read, and I enjoyed this element of the book very much. Carmela is a traditional young woman, working hard for her family, and living with them all too. She's a talented seamstress, and also is a great cook when working with her sister Piera. She's engaged to a local man Franco, and knows the wedding is something that the whole family is looking forward to. However, when she meets American Captain Kavanagh one day, Carmela's eyes are opened to a world she never even dreamt of exploring, and wonders if she is settling in marrying Franco.

I didn't find the book to be particularly easy reading. There is quite a lot of characters within Carmela's family to keep track of, and in parts, I found it hard to remember who was who, and how they were all related to each other. However, I just tried to plough on regardless, and was soon pretty sure I had an idea on it all, rightly or wrongly! Carmela herself was a great character, one who seemed quite ambitious for a young woman, but didn't seem to know how to break out of her family mold, and their expectations of her. This is particularly prevalent when she is offered opportunities as the book progresses, but doesn't know whether or not to take them due to her family commitments.

I enjoyed seeing how Carmela's world changed when she met the American officer. He was a really fun character to read about, quite straight-laced and trying to do the right thing by everyone, and I can see why Carmela was taken by him. It was a slow-burning friendship, and I very much enjoyed reading it all unfold. There were a few very upsetting scenes in the book, one in particular that I hadn't expected that moved me to tears because it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I have to praise Alexander's writing and how she handled these scenes, as they cannot have been easy to write due to their emotive nature.

For a debut, this is a strong, well written novel, very heavy on the narrative but the descriptions of Sardinia, the local customs and traditions, are brilliant and really bring the whole place to life in my mind. It is definitely somewhere I would like to visit having read this book, and Alexander definitely has succeeded in making Sardinia the centre of this book, an island around which everybody's actions revolve. I will be looking forward to reading more from Sara Alexander. Thanks go to HQ for the review copy of this book.

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