Pining to return to Italy?
The Year of Our Love, a new historical novel by Caterina Bonvicini, transports readers to the streets of Bologna and Rome as well as their surrounding towns, with side trips to Cortina in winter and Versilia in summer.
If you miss Italy and wish you were there, you’ll feel nostalgic as you turn the pages of this book. Perhaps, you will even be lucky enough to find yourself rediscovering the neighborhoods, foods, and customs of these inviting cities, one the capital of the Emilia Romagna region and the other the capital of Italy.
Valerio and Olivia, the two protagonists of the story, grew up together within the confines of the same sprawling villa in Bologna. However, the circumstances of their upbringing couldn’t have been more different.
Olivia’s grandfather, Gianni Morganti, was a wealthy industrialist. The family was blessed with status and material wealth.
Valerio’s parents were among the many servants catering to the whims and fancies of the estate owners that they served. His father was a gardener, and his mother a housekeeper.
But Valerio and Olivia forge an indelible bond in childhood that is encouraged by both sets of parents. Valerio accompanies the family on tony vacations reached by private jet and receives support to attend private school with Olivia, experiences that offer him exposure to a world far beyond his roots or expected trajectory.
The Year of our Love: The story
As the two youngsters move into adolescence, Olivia seems lost, on an eternal search to define and find herself. She is impulsive, unpredictable, and unfaithful. She consorts with men and slips in and out of bad marriages.
Valerio is career-driven, working diligently in the hopes of attending law school at the prestigious university in Bologna. Over time, his mother gets frustrated and somewhat jealous seeing privilege up close and decides she no longer wants to cater to the Morgantis. Guido, Valerio’s father, is later dismissed by the family and accused of theft.
As a result, Valerio finds himself living in squalor in a depressed neighborhood in Rome, having to adjust to a very harsh and impoverished environment with a different class of people than those with whom he was raised.
The historical background
The story between the two lovers tracks their individual lives and their crossed paths between the years of 1975-2013.
Simultaneously, the author recounts this difficult period of Italian history. It included the violence of the Red Brigade (a far-left terrorist organization); the neo-fascist terrorist bombing of the Bologna railroad station in 1980, which killed 80 and wounded some 200 people; the infiltration of the Mafia into government, industry, and the lives of private citizens; and the difficult politics of the Berlusconi years.
However, despite personal, familial and societal ills, Valerio and Olivia share a unique intimacy and passion that repeatedly drives them back into each other’s arms at different junctures in the story, whether or not they are married or involved with other people. Valerio becomes disillusioned with his career. Neither one seems to be satisfied with the routes they have chosen.
Partly a love story, part historical novel, and part travelogue, The Year of Our Love transports readers to another time and place. Caterina Bonvicini convincingly brings the lead characters, their network of family and friends, and their worlds to life. (Interestingly, although the author is female, the book is narrated primarily in the voice of Valerio.)
If you’re yearning to immerse yourself in Italy, I highly recommend this romantic, captivating and beautifully written book. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
About the author
Caterina Bonvicini lives between Rome and Milan and holds a degree in Modern Literature from the University of Bologna. Her novel L’equilibrio degli squali (2008) was hugely acclaimed and won several literary prizes in Italy and the Grand Prix de l’Héroïne Madame Figaro in France. It was followed by Il sorriso lento (2010), Correva l’anno del nostro amore (2014), Tutte le donne di (2016), and Fancy Red (2018).
The writer has worked with humanitarian organizations rescuing Libyan migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. She has blogged about her experiences for L’Espresso, an Italian weekly news magazine.
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