One person is all it takes to change a lifetime . . . But how will you know if they’re the one?
Letty and Alf are the only English speakers at an Italian class in Rome, where they discover the language that really connects them is dance: Letty’s first love was ballet, while Alf was a junior ballroom champion. They come from different worlds, until the moment they waltz around the Piazza Navona, and everything changes.
But one moment can’t change the past, and it’s clear that Alf and Letty still have their secrets. What caused them to leave their lives behind in England? And who, or what, are they running from? As their relationship deepens, it becomes harder and harder to tell the truth…
When the unthinkable happens, Letty returns to London and Alf to Blackpool. Will they spend their lives apart, or discover a future together?
Review by Linda Hepworth
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book because, judging it by the cover, it would be easy to make an assumption that it’s a rather lightweight, chick-lit story. However, although it does have a good-feel factor to it (something very welcome during this time of lockdown restrictions!), I found that the storyline was very well-paced and had an impressive (and, dare I admit, surprising!) depth. There were also moments of profound sadness and darkness as Lett’s and Alf’s secrets and vulnerabilities were exposed. The events in their lives which had led each of them to living in Rome were gradually revealed as the narrative alternated between their different perspectives. This allowed the author to create characters who became convincingly multi-dimensional, recognisable and very easy to feel some empathy with. The final section of the story also includes the voice of Letty’s mother Frances, and I found that her perspective added an unexpected depth and richness to the story.
This is a very well-written, and surprisingly thought-provoking novel, which explores many important themes, including eating disorders, mental health, grief and loss. A thread which runs through the story is an exploration of the powerful and enduring effects family life, of previous relationships, and how unresolved issues can unconsciously influence subsequent relationships, often in a self-destructive way. However, it also showed that change is possible if people are prepared to be brave enough to confront what has gone wrong in the past, to make changes and then to take the risk of trusting in a new relationship. One of the reasons that I found this story so much more satisfying than a conventional romance (a genre I usually avoid!) was its lack of sentimentality and the recognition that no relationship can flourish, or last, if it harbours secrets.
I first visited Rome in the early 1970s and, as someone who has an almost visceral dislike of most large cities, I immediately fell under the spell of this wonderful place – a “love-affair” which has never lost its sparkle! The highly-evocative nature of the author’s descriptions transported me back to all the places Letty and Alf discovered and explored, making me feel that I was there with them, rediscovering the magic of each of the locations. I think she captured the juxtaposition of the city’s massive grandeur and its sense of comfortable intimacy, in a very impressive way, succeeding in making it a character in its own right. However, although Rome is central to the story (and where else can “compete” with the rich history of this wonderful city!) Blackpool is also beautifully evoked by the author … from the grandeur of the Tower Ballroom, to the impressive sandy beach, the smell of candyfloss, the drama of the illuminations and the ever-present, ever-changing seascape.
It wouldn’t feel right to end this review without mentioning the love of dancing which Letty and Alf share. I have two left feet, have never watched (or even been tempted to watch!) Strictly Come Dancing (although I do love watching ballet!) but even I felt entranced by their waltz around the Piazza Navona … my favourite square, in my favourite city!
With my thanks to Pan Books and Readers First for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Personal Read: 4*
Group Read: 3*
Pan Macmillan Paperback (30th April 2020)