Title: The Right Place
Author: Carla Caruso
Published: August 20th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary/Historical, Australian, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
Can the past show you the way home? Charming and memorable, The Right Place is an Australian novel, combining warm romance with family drama and the longing to fit in. Perfect for readers who love The Missing Pieces of Us by Fleur McDonald and Josephine Moon.
With her dreams of dominating Melbourne’s fashion scene in tatters, Nella Martini has returned to the last place she wants to be – Torrente Blu, the market garden inherited from her late nonna. She just needs to clean up the property, sell it quickly, and avoid run–ins with her neighbour: surly Adrian Tomaso.
But when Nella comes across her nonna’s cookbook things start to change. The place, with its endless tomato plants and gallons of olive oil in storage, gets under her skin, as does Adrian with his passion for this life. But her dreams have always meant being anywhere but here – haven’t they? Or has the right place been here all this time?
For Esta Feliciano in the 1950s, the right place was her Italian village. But in search of a better life than war–torn Italy has to offer, her husband has moved Esta and their daughter to this alien country, settling on a small, flat piece of land that he calls Torrente Blu. Can Esta come to grips with the harsh Australian sun and strange culture?
Woven with traditional Italian recipes, The Right Place is the heartfelt story of two women’s journeys, as they discover how the right place to call home can be where you make it…
When a book begins with a delectable and mouth watering recipe that has you rushing to the kitchen, you know you are in for a reading treat. The Right Place, by Australian freelance journalist and published author Carla Caruso is one melting pot of goodness. This very special novel manages to combine a beautiful story of identity, belonging, love, family and the preservation of heritage, all in the one novel. I enjoyed the experience of reading The Right Place so much, I was reluctant for it to end.
Nella is a Melbourne fashionista, until her boutique takes a downward turn and then her long-term relationship ends. Nella’s unfortunate life turn in Melbourne leads her to return to her family home, back in Adelaide. Nella now owns Torrente Blu, her Nonna’s market garden with attached property. Nella has plans to sell the property as quick as possible and resume her life in Melbourne, but her plans soon go awry. While trying to avoid her grumpy neighbour Adrian, Nella begins to sort through her Nonna’s belongings and the discovery of a cookbook compiled by her Nonna changes Nella’s outlook. This cookbook kick-starts Nella’s reconnection to her family heritage and culture. It also ignites a new found passion for food, both harvesting and cooking. This brings Nella closer to her neighbour Adrian, a man she has gone out of her way to avoid until now. While Nella indulges in a culinary and romantic dalliance, her Nonna’s past is revealed via flashbacks. It is a past defined by tradition, change, bravery and hope.
I have to say I love the new direction many Australian authors are taking towards ‘foodie lit’. Not only are these stories poignant, resonating and heart-warming, they always deliver a sensory overload! While reading The Right Place, I constantly felt hungry and I had to quell my desire to whip up all the wonderful recipes included in this book. I really appreciated how Carla Caruso opened up her family’s vault and shared these homely recipes with readers of The Right Place. These recipes are interlaced throughout the book and are accompanied by a set of stunning design motifs of the vegetables featured in this appealing novel.
The Right Place is defined by a search for identity and this overarching theme eases its way through the two narratives featured in the novel. In the present day, we follow Nella, a young woman rediscovering her true passion in her life, career and love life. I genuinely felt for Nella, she is an independent and determined young lady with a big heart. Nella’s character journey was a blessing to follow. Likewise, Nonna Esta was a bold character and Caruso does an excellent job of outlining all aspects of this admirable woman. I gleaned a great deal about Italian traditional culture, values and cooking. I was also given an all important insight into the problems experience by European migrants to our shores in the 1950s. It was heart-warming to witness Mabel, Esta’s kindly neighbour help Esta in her time of need, by offering a shoulder to lean on. Sadly, we learn of Esta’s struggles with language barriers, cultural differences and unfortunately miscarriages. It makes for an emotional read, but Caruso handles this section of her novel with the touching dignity it deserves. The only drawback was that I wanted more of the 1950s storyline.
There is a nice side serve of romance in The Right Place. Nella’s struggle with overcoming the demise of her long-term relationship in Melbourne is played out against her growing attraction to neighbour Adrian. Further heartache comes in the form of Nella’s sense of nostalgia for past love with Davide, Adrian’s twin brother. The twins sub narrative strand was a bonus touch to this endearing and full tale. I noticed in Carla Caruso’s bio that she is the mother of twin boys and perhaps this personal inspiration has fuelled the creation of this narrative line. It is a fine story thread, told with understanding and conviction. Caruso’s representation of Adrian’s character is fantastic and I closely followed his journey, it was just as meaningful as Nella’s.
Dotting out the pages of The Right Place are a few extra flourishes. There is the injection of humour and culture via Nella’s friend Fabiana, who is very memorable. Then there is the focus on the South Australian setting and the market garden backdrop, which is so colourful and abundant that I lapped up every scene intimately. There is so much to devour in terms of the food elements, it was a pure delight to learn more about vegetable harvesting and picking, as well as passata making, food preparation and so much more! The Right Place delivers a sense of euphoria for food fiction lovers!
There is not much more I can say about this stunning story, except that it is imperative that you read this lovely modern historical, come contemporary romance novel. The Right Place it is told from the heart and carefully embodies the spirit of the talented author’s family values. The Right Place is an intrinsic and extrinsic book beauty. Make sure you grab a copy today and set aside some time to cook a storm!
The Right Place by Carla Caruso was published on 20th August 2018 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Right Place, Carla Caruso visit here.
*I wish to thank HQ Fiction – AU for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Right Place, is book #118 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge