Book review: An Italian Holiday by Maeve Haran

An Italian Holiday
An Italian Holiday
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If you can’t afford a holiday in beautiful Italy this summer, why not head off to the sun-soaked Amalfi coast with four women escaping their troubles at home?

Maeve Haran, author of a string of warm and witty novels including Having It All, the 1992 bestseller which famously captured the dilemma of the working mother, truly does have fun in the sun in this glorious celebration of women, friendship and the endless delights of southern Italy.

Sixties survivor Haran is a former television producer and mother of three grown-up children, and she brings to her fabulous fiction all the drama of her career, the wisdom of her years and the human insight from raising a brood of youngsters.

And for those at home feeling starved of sunshine, golden sand, and maybe even a little romance this summer, An Italian Holiday is guaranteed to sweep you away to a springtime of lemon blossom, sea breezes, bright blue skies, shimmering heat… and more than a few glasses of Prosecco.

When four very different women turn up at the beautiful Villa Le Sirenuse in Lanzarella on Italy’s southern coast, they are all on the run from unhappiness at home in London.

‘Hearth and home’ wife and mum Claire Lambert, who owns a modest catering business, is fed up with being the major breadwinner in her marriage to lazy husband Martin and feels cramped after having her son and daughter-in-law living with them ‘temporarily’ for over six months now.

‘Ball-breaker’ Angela Williams owns Fabric, a mega-successful clothing company, and is one of the tycoons on TV’s hit show Done Deal, but now the venture capitalists who invested in her firm have sold it from under her.

For Angela, the public loss of her own company is highly embarrassing and with the Press on to her ‘like maggots,’ she is more than ready to take flight from London for a few weeks.
There is also humiliation at home for Sylvie Sutton who runs her own Bohemian interior design business from an office in the King’s Road in Chelsea. Sylvie thought her only worry was completing a flat refurbishment in time for exacting Russian clients until she caught her husband Tony ‘in flagrante’ with their young intern Kimberley.

And as for recently widowed Monica Mathieson, a university librarian for over 40 years, she has been forced to return to live with her parents because of financial difficulties and is struggling to cope with her overbearing and unsupportive mother.

But as the Italian sun ripens the lemons in the groves that tumble down the hillsides and the Mediterranean dazzles beneath them, assertive Angela, extrovert Sylvie, unconfident Claire and mousy Monica find burgeoning friendship and begin to blossom in quite unexpected ways...

Haran is on top form in this sunshine-filled Italian odyssey, the perfect read for discerning women who like their entertainment to come with a charismatic cast, a seductive backdrop and a storyline full of humour, romance, friendship and new beginnings.

Big dollops of optimism, a sprinkling of intrigue and the kind of small detail that brings the characters and their world to life are just the added extras to an exuberant summer extravaganza that would be midsummer madness to leave out of your suitcase!

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)