Book Extract: That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina

Today I am pleased to share something different with an extract of Valeria Vescina’s ‘That Summer in Puglia’ as the final stop on the blog tour hosted by Bookollective.


The Book

that_summer_in_pugliaThat Summer in Puglia
By Valeria Vescina
Publisher: Eyewear Publishing
ISBN: 9781912477999
Pages: 303

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Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down. Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief. Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts? THAT SUMMER IN PUGLIA is a tale of love, loss, the perils of self-deception and the power of compassion. Puglia offers an ideal setting: its layers of history are integral to the story, itself an excavation of a man’s past; Tommaso’s increasingly vivid memories of its sensuous colours, aromas and tastes, and of how it felt to love and be loved, eventually transform the discomforting tone with which he at first tries to keep Will and painful truths at a distance. This remarkable debut combines a gripping plot and perceptive insights into human nature with delicate lyricism.

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Extract From Chapter 4 of That Summer in Puglia

‘I wish I hadn’t fallen in love with you.  You’re going to break my heart, I know it already.’  

‘I’ll never do that.’  We kissed again. Her perfume, flowery and faint, almost made me light-headed.  ‘My God, you’re so beautiful,’ I said.

‘I hope I’m not your God.’  

We both laughed.  

Anna might have said it in jest, but that sentence – ‘I hope I’m not your God’ – has rung in my ears again and again.  Anna’s love felt like an unparalleled blessing. For her and with her I would have perfected any aspect of myself, though she made me feel loved in my entirety; for a time, she could have said the same.  If there’s a God, love between human beings can bring us as close to Him as we’ll ever get.  Cynics scoff at the mention of loves like ours, but their arguments sow misery: too many people settle for second-best in the belief they’re being ‘realistic’, and before long become cynics in turn.  Countless human beings will never experience the kind of love I’m describing, and there it was, being served to Anna and me on a plate. So young. Too young.

How, you might ask, can I have the arrogance of asserting that it wasn’t the elation of ‘first love’, or of the early phase of love, that made ours feel so extraordinary?  

The stubborn rationalist I once was – before falling in love with Anna – would almost certainly have answered by listing some facts: the generous dose of interests we shared; presumably a sprinkling of unconscious mutual needs; a fortunate correspondence and complementarity of qualities…  It wouldn’t be untrue. But it would deny the magic – the most important, yet most elusive, of all facts. How tragically reductive that would be. All I can do is to leave you with my certainty of how it felt to be loved by, and to love, Anna – and with a thought: the man who concluded that ‘The Heart knows reasons whereof Reason knows nothing’ wasn’t a hopeless romantic but a stern mathematician.  

In the days which followed the evening in Villanova, we spent every spare moment together, at and outside school.  We dived into our pasts and resurfaced with fragments of memory which the other greeted like priceless finds – stories about our childhoods, our families, friends, old schools, trips…  We shared hidden moments – the hilarious, the painful and the most embarrassing ones – without inhibitions. It’s difficult to remember examples of them now, to fish them out of what feels like a torrent.  But I do recall telling Anna of my maternal grandfather.

He and my grandmother died when I was thirteen.  During my childhood, at our customary Sunday lunch with them, he sometimes offered me two one-hundred-lire coins, provided I managed to keep them under my armpits for the whole meal – an old-fashioned method for teaching table manners.  At age five I was unable to keep my elbows stuck to my ribcage and the coins dropped within seconds onto the floor; at age seven they slid inexorably down my arms until their high-pitched ding on the ceramic tiles chimed my fiasco. Dad’s regular protestations against this practice – a surreptitious cruelty to which I was a willing party, lured by those elusive coins – provoked periods of grudging silences between him and my grandparents.  I must have been eight when at another of Grandpa’s attempts my father’s exasperation spilt over.

‘Isn’t it bad enough that you… already did this to Emma?’  

My grandfather stiffened in his chair.  ‘Did what?’

‘Drummed that pernicious sense of your family’s bygone ‘rightful place in the world’ into her head, and – now I understand – even into her movements.  You want to do the same to my son? Never.’ He poured himself a glass of wine, and took a swig.  

Grandma clutched Grandpa’s arm.  He pulled his glasses closer, the better to glare at Dad.  

Mum looked from him to her parents, and back again.  ‘How can you be so disrespectful?’ Her voice was shaky.  ‘To my father, to me…’

‘Darling, I have huge respect for you.  More than that. You’re the love of my life.  But the whole attitude behind such things – ’ he pointed to the coins on the tablecloth – ‘hasn’t done you any good, has it?’  

‘Ha!’  My mother crossed her arms.  

I watched, uneasy.  I had never witnessed a flare-up between my parents.  Dad’s humour, or Mum’s fondness for him, normally defused their little disagreements.  

‘It’s painful to watch how hard you have to work to overcome your snootiness – whether towards other guests at a party, or towards the grocer, the…’ Dad said.  ‘Being able to enjoy conversations with perfectly nice people shouldn’t require such effort. And that’s progress, compared to when we first met.’

‘You – ’ Mum stammered.  ‘Blowing things out of proportion like this.  Father was only encouraging good manners in Tommaso.  You should be grateful.’

Grandpa nodded, his eyebrows a scowl, his cheeks hollow.  

Dad sighed, and said nothing.  

But my grandfather never subjected me to the exercise of the coins again.   

So you see?  Episodes and feelings of which I had never spoken – presumably considering them unworthy of anyone’s interest or maybe fearful of others’ judgment – tumbled out of my lips and were met with understanding, warmth and humour.  To the example I have given you, I believe Anna quipped she had never thought of coins as torture instruments. I can still see her, shaking her head in sympathy as you have done, while I recounted this and other incidents, or laughing with me when I told her of happier ones.  I, in turn, couldn’t get enough of the glimpses of the life she had led until then, of the slivers of time that had gone into who she was.

‘I wish I had known you years ago,’ I kept saying.  

‘I wish I had known you, too.’  

I suppose that, through the sharing of details from our past and present, we were seeking to overcome that impossibility.  


About The Author

valeria

Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). THAT SUMMER IN PUGLIA (Eyewear Publishing, 2018) is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network . She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).

Follow Valeria Vescina: Website  Twitter


I want to extend a special thank you to Aimee with Bookollective and the author for allowing me to particpate and providing the extract today!

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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Sunday Sum~Up

Sunday Sum_Up (1)

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer that I am linking my Sunday Sum-Ups with. Stop by and say hello!

This is my first weekly recap in a few weeks due to a Small Health Break and then an unexpected back injury that has left me with nerve damage. I am currently on a heavy round of medications to combat pain and inflammation while I await my next follow up appointment to reassess where I am at with it all. Needless to say, my return has been slower than expected and my writing subpar. I am quite honestly, a bit of a train wreck lately 😉

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But on the plus side, the restrictions and bedrest have meant plenty of fantastic reads! The blog should pick up more once I start to feel better and I am looking forward to sharing some of my recent reads.


Recent Reviews

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Currently Reading

I have made the difficult decision to shelf 1Q84 for now. Between the increased meds and my current mood, I just cannot muster the appropriate attention for this book (and I feel like it deserves more from me). But I will be returning to it!

the_thiefThe Thief
By Megan Whalen Turner

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The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.


Other Happenings

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”
~Ursula K. Le Guin

What are you reading this week? Drop me a line with a recommendation or a title you recently enjoyed!

Cheers,
Danielle ❤

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A Few Thoughts & Goodreads Ratings on Books I Failed to Review

Unfortunately, time seems to be against me these past few months as I notice that I am accumulating a list of “read” titles on Goodreads that I never managed to review. So I thought I would share a few thoughts and my final Goodreads rating on them today.


the_atrocitiesThe Atrocities
By Jeremy Shipp

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Final GR rating: 3/5

This was a wonderfully creepy novella that hooked me from the start. I was instantly drawn into the mystery of Isabella and the gothic setting. I appreciated the author’s ability to immediately set the stage for a mysterious and fast-paced story that managed to deliver something original. It did feel like it began to unhinge slightly toward the end, however, lowering my final score to an even 3/5. I would still easily recommend this to fans of supernatural and horror novellas.

into_the_drowning_deepInto the Drowning Deep
By Mira Grant

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Final GR rating: 3/5

This is an author I am still trying to find my ground with. While I admit that I enjoyed Into the Drowning Deep much more than her Every Heart a Doorway, it was a slow start. But when I finally gained my footing I found that this was simply entertaining and for that worth my time. I love the idea of mermaids and sirens and will always appreciate any author who attempts to connect them to their darker origins (which is certainly the case here). My chief complaint would be that I found the characters less than engaging at times and the execution felt off. The pacing seemed to fluctuate a lot. I did enjoy the exploration of the creatures’ anatomy and the scientific elements incorporated throughout. Perhaps I was expecting something a little more frightening? Still, if you are into the mysterious deep dark sea and mythological creatures, you might try this on for size.

the_shape_of_waterThe Shape of Water
By Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus

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Final GR rating: 3/5

Okay, so here is the truth; I wanted to love this book and I did not. I loved the film, but somehow I struggled with certain aspects of this story on page. I appreciated the additional insight and backstory that are provided here though. I feel it is a wonderful addition to the film, but also one of the rare cases where I would suggest watching before reading. I think that the alternating PoVs started to weigh on me, as there were certain characters I truly disliked reading about. And at times the pacing was too slow for my taste. It just failed to move me or engage even remotely close to the way the film did. Which is something you will rarely hear me say! But then again, I hold a special affection for del Toro’s films and maybe my expectations were too high. It is still an incredibly beautiful story that as we have come to expect of his work challenges humanity and dares to question who the real monsters are.

brave_new_girlBrave New Girl
By Rachel Vincent

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Final GR rating 4/5

This was an on the whim audible listen that was surprisingly perfect for me. It is a dystopian tale that follows young Dahlia 16 who is part of a series of clones bred to be anything but unique or different. Doing so means being flawed. Being flawed leads to recalls (i.e destroyed). So what happens when she starts breaking all of the rules? Ok so this one was not overly complex and is somewhat brief, but it felt like an honest start to something truly appealing. The author’s writing was fluid and the protagonist viable. All elements here just worked for me and I was hooked. Simply put, it was fun!

the_changelingThe Changeling
By Victor Lavalle

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Final GR rating: 4/5

Gah! I do not even know where to start with this one. I am just going to be upfront and state that this was close to being a 5 star read until things took a detour during the last 25% or so of the story. It is beautifully written and full of the unexpected. Think modern fairy tale for adults with that added moral compass and valuable message we expect from them. It is ambitious, engaging and for the most part, wonderfully executed. Unfortunately, the final events deviated too far for me and it left me with mixed feelings.


Have you read any of the above books? If so, what were your thoughts? Which are you most likely to pick up?

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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