Saturday 10 June 2017

Book review : Under a Sardinian Sky - Sara Alexander

The story starts in 2007, with Mina, a travel writer, returning home to London to bury an aunt and look after her mother, also battling cancer. Realising that both women have been pained and maybe literally eaten away inside by the lifelong sadness of not knowing what happened to the black sheep of the family, Aunt Carmela, Mia decides to uncover the truth and let her mother find some closure before it is too late.

The scene moves to Simius, a busy Sardinian town, surrounded by fertile farms and orchards, in the post second world war years. We soon discover Carmela Chirigoni, a beautiful, strong-headed, young woman who is destined to inherit her godmother's dressmaking business, where she currently works as a talented seamstress, and marry her childhood sweetheart Franco, who belongs to the wealthiest and most important family of the area. With the islanders' narrow-minded and inward-looking perspective, she should be more than happy with her lot, but Carmela already has doubts - her fiancé seems very possessive and controlling and her work as a maid and cook for the Curwins, a rich British family who holiday on the island every summer, has opened her eyes to broader horizons than most inhabitants of Simius would ever dream of considering.

When a dashing American officer from the local army base, Captain Joe Kavanagh, catches her eye, she secretly falls madly in love with him, but she knows it is just a pipe dream - he is married and she is set on a pathway to a different destiny. With circumstances becoming more and more complicated and her husband-to-be showing an increasingly dark side, Carmela is torn between her youthful hopes and dreams and her duty to her family. When everything comes to a head and Carmela mysteriously disappears, it is assumed that the young woman took her own life, unable to choose between the two men - but did she really? This is what Mina must try to understand as she revisits her aunt's homeland seeking the truth. The reader has a greater insight into Carmela's life than Mina but the ending still comes as a pleasant surprise.

I would class this as a cross between chick lit and historical fiction because it has a grittier edge than the usual light, fluffy, romantic reads that are churned out just before the summer season and the evocative descriptions of Sardinia in the 1950's add an extra layer of interest. I enjoyed watching Carmela evolving and trying to break free from the restrictive and reductive views of her traditionalist peers. While such sexist and bigoted views are rarer these days, Carmela's experiences with an abusive partner, as well as her desire to bravely seek out a more fulfilling life than the one she is destined to, make it a timeless story that everyone can relate to, whenever and wherever they are reading it. I did feel that the book was too slow-paced with overly long descriptions and a sluggish plot, but this may have been done on purpose to represent the sedate, tedious life that Simius would offer her.

With its sun-baked setting and intelligently told love story, it's ideal for packing in your suitcase this summer. It has also given me lots of inspiration for #readcookeat recipes which is always an added bonus !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HQ; First edition edition (20 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0008217262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008217266

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. Worth a read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hope you bring this one over to Books You Loved. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  3. I might get it for our holiday in Cornwall. Is there any local food mentioned?


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