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Triple Book Review: Italy

Hello again fellow book lovers, and welcome back to Tea and Paperbacks, new posts every Monday! Today I’ve decided to make yet another Triple Book Review. I created this new little segment for my blog when I first made a Triple Book Review of three books with similar themes: mystery, and compare them to each other. In this post, I decided to combine three quite different books that only have a small thread of similarity.

In this post, I want to discuss three books that are set (partly) in Italy. Now you might wonder if this was a coincidence or if I did it on purpose. Well, to tell you the truth, this is a very conscious decision. I decided to read as many books set in Italy as I can, because in my summer holiday in August, I will be going on a vacation to Italy! I’ve never been there before and I really wanna know as much as I can about the country, and so I though, what better way to do this than to read books!

Anyways, I will compare the three books not only in terms of their setting, but also like any other regular book reviews, where I discuss my thoughts on all the aspects of the books. Let’s just jump straight into it then!

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How to be Both by Ali Smith

This is the first book I read that I bought and read on purpose because it was set in Italy. Of course, I didn’t just buy it because I know some part of it was set in Italy, I also have heard a lot of good things about this book and Ali Smith. I had initially wanted to read her other works first, the novels she published earlier, but I decided to read this first.

I discussed my in-depth thoughts on the book in my April Wrap Up, but to summarize, I really enjoyed this book. I love the writing style, and I love how smart Ali Smith was in sructuring the novel and separating it into two different parts. It was ingenious because now the readers are split into two and they view the book in a different way.

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However, the drawback of the book was that unfortunately I didn’t really feel touched while reading this book. It didn’t evoke any deep emotions from me, and when I finished the book, I was just like oh, okay then, and then I moved on. It was quite disappointing to be honest, but I still really enjoyed the whole reading experience and the uniqueness of it.

Now focusing on the setting of the book, How to be Both is not only set in Italy. In the first part, it was mostly set in the UK (I think?) with an British main character, George. But then George goes with her mother to Italy to view a painting her mother really wants to see. In the second part, it was mainly set in Italy in the 15th century. And although I heard that Ali Smith did not really portray and describe the Renaissance 15th century very well, I do think I feel the vibe of Italy from this book. From the story of Francesco, to the moments that were set in Italy with George and her mother and the painting, I really liked Smith’s description of Italy, although the location was not a major part of the story.

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A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

This is a classic novel that I found on the library, and I immediately borrowed it because I knew it was set in Italy. It starts with Lucy Honeychurch, our main protagonist, a positive and independent young woman traveling with her cousin to Florence, Italy. There the two women got assigned a room with no view, in which they was disappointed about. An old man and his son overheard their conversation and offered to switch rooms, because theirs had a view.

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The story continues with Lucy exploring Italy and meeting with the her room’s former occupant, a quiet and lower-class young man, George Emerson. The story is mostly about the romance between them two, as Lucy at first denied her feelings to him and never met him after Italy, proceeds to get engaged, but her love rekindled when George comes to live near her house.

Though in the summary it stated that the setting was in Italy, I found that the scenes at the beginning of the book located in Italy was not very prominent in my mind. About two-thirds of the book was when Lucy got back from Italy to England, and that part was where I started getting into the book and enjoying the characters and story. Nonetheless, I saw some unique point of views about Italy through the eyes of E.M. Forster. You see that two women traveling on their own to Europe at that time seemed normal, and that traveling was a way to get education, and that the people would go to a certain country for weeks, even months, unlike what we do now.

I really like the story itself, and how it is sort of a fun and exciting romance rather than the expected dark and angsty one. I liked Lucy as a character, George not so much, but the other side characters were also very fleshed out and fun to read. I actually quite liked the dynamics between Lucy and Cecil (her former fiancee), and I adored Lucy’s little brother who reminded me of myself and my little brother’s relationship. All in all, it was a quite entertaining read.

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Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Okay, I have a lot of thoughts about this book, so this might be a long ride. First of all, Angels and Demons is a book by Dan Brown, and the first book of a trilogy of history-filled fiction, mostly set in Italy. The story starts with our main character, Robert Langdon, a historian, being called to a secret organization called CERN where the director claimed that a professor was killed by Illuminati. The story revolves around Langdon and the dead scientist’s daughter, Vittoria Vetra, on a race against time to save the Vatican.

This book is packed with science, religion, and history, and it gives a unique point of view of them. It involves two main characters, each very smart in history, art, and science, and it’s remarkable how much Dan Brown can fit in so much information and not make the readers explode. It’s one of the main things I really liked about the book.

The plot of the story was also very exciting. It’s very thrilling, and it has a lot of action so nothing gets too boring as well. But other than that, you can also still learn more about the characters and where the story is set, while also focusing a lot of the history of the setting and the different plot twists.

But one of the problems I had with it was its plot twists. At first I really enjoyed them, because who doesn’t like plot twists? But then as the story progressed and it got longer and longer, I sort of felt like the book would never end, that there was always another conflict that suddenly appears, and more and more plot twists. I think in that sense Dan Brown sort of overused the whole plotting for me.

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Nonetheless, while focusing on the location and Italy, I really enjoyed the perspective of Rome and Vatican City in this book. I think this is the most informative book about Italy compared to the other two books in this review, cause you can really see the characters exploring the city, mentioning the historical locations, and the people in there because the main thread of the story focuses a lot on that aspect of the city. Especially in the last parts of the book, during the night where a lot of people were crowded around the Vatican, you can really feel the Italian vibe. It makes me want to visit all the places mentioned in the book.

Another thing I’d like to mention about this book that I liked was how Brown weaved in morality and the rocky relationship between religion and science. As a Catholic myself, and a future scientist/engineer, I can really relate to this book. I felt a lot of things regarding my faith and how it affects what I think about science, and I can really relate to the camerlengo or Vittoria in that way. It was a unique perspective and something that was explored really well in this book.

So overall, I didn’t really like Angels and Demons, story-wise. It was fast-paced and exciting, and it kept surprising us as readers, but the plot twists kind of got repetitive and predictable after a while. And even so, the setting was excellent, with great characters as well, although I didn’t really gel with any of them or love any of them in particular. In the end, it’s a fun book to read, and I’m sure I’ll like the movie more than the book, especially as it presents Italy in a visual way as well.

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Well, that is all for the three books I read that were set in Italy! Which of these three books did you already read, and did you like them? Have you been to Italy? Which books set in Italy do you like the most? Let me know in the comments!

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May Wrap Up

So this is super late, but welcome back to Tea and Paperbacks, where you can find new posts every Monday! May passed by so quickly, and as we came into June I realized that I didn’t read that many books this month. I don’t really know why – maybe it’s because I had alot going on at school and in my personal life, also because I had been traveling (to Paris, in case you haven’t read my Sunday Updates). And I have been sort of inactive in my blog as well, so sorry about that. Anyway, here is the books I read in May, and a little bit on my plans for June.

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun

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This is the second book from the cozy mystery series Cat Who, and I really enjoyed this second installment. It’s light and more fun than the first book. It wasn’t special or anything, but I had a great time reading this little adorable book. And cats!!!

3 stars

The Raven King by Maggie Sitefvater

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OH MY GOD thIS BOOK. I made a full review of my thoughts about this last book of the Raven Cycle series that has been super hyped for the past few years in the book community. I loved this last book, I thought it was a great conclusion to the series. Sure, there were some small problems, but overall I was blown away (as usual) by the writing and the adorable characters. The plot was alright, but it was made better by the amazingly written characters. Check out my review for more of my rambling about this book!

4.5 stars

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

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This was the last book I read in May, which was so disappointing. I borrowed it from the library because I heard it was one of the most famous books that are set in Italy, and I have a task to read a lot of books set in Italy. I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t amazing or anything, I did struggle a bit at the beginning and the middle, but overall the story was alright and the characters were great. I will make a review for my Triple Book Review, which I will post (hopefully) soon!

3.5 stars

2016 Resolutions Updates

  • Read 55 books (21/55: I’m two books behind schedule!)
  • Borrow more books from the library (3 books borrowed from the library, and 1 book borrowed from a friend)
  • Read 2 hours a week (2 hours 6 minutes reading in avg per week)

So those were the three books I read in May! It wasn’t a very productive month, I know, but I’m planning to do a readathon in June, plus school will be over by the end of the month so hopefully I’ll be able to make up to it!

What are the books you read in May? Any of the books I read above that you liked? Let me know in the comments down below and let’s talk about books together ❤

Header image by Nathalie Ouderni @ Behance