Friday, January 4, 2013

When In Rome

I have just finished reading this book my first for 2013.
When In Rome by  Nicky Pellegrino is the third of hers I have read. Not quite the same as some of her others but then would I have wanted it to be?
The blurb on the back reads...

Rome in the 1950s, there's nowhere quite like it. The narrow stone streets, the fountains and piazzas full of life in the heat of the day, the cafes and bars full of music and desire by night...This is where Serafina calls home. Having grown-up with her sisters in a tiny apartment tucked in the top of a tumbledown building, she has watched her mother get by on next to nothing, and turn herself beautiful with a sweep of eyeliner and a hand-sewn dress. When her mother goes out, Serafina and her sisters go singing in the nearest piazza, busking for spare change and cinema tickets. The girls long to meet their matinee idols and Serafina daydreams of Mario Lanza and his spellbinding voice. But the sisters will grow up quickly and for Serafina, a choice opens between the world she knows and the life she dreams of. A captivating tale of love and music, food and passion, let Nicky Pellegrino take you on a journey to a city of beauty and heartbreak, at one of the most glamorous points in its magical history.

Serafina's mother is a lady of the night.She is expected top look after her two sisters while her mother is out and once that happens they go off to have fun, Carmela the middle sister sings for money and they use this for treats and moves. One day they discover Mario Lanza a hero singer to the two older sisters comes to town. Carmela tries to sing for him but is lost in the crowd almost but Sefarina is caught up with the family when she approaches then in the hotel they are staying at. She ends up work as a PA for Betty Mario's wife on the idea of getting a moment for Carmela to sing with Mario - Carmela's dream. However this never really happens but Sefarina life takes on a whole new way she would never otherwise have had the opportunity to have.

Nicky Pellegrino has an English mother and an Italian father who gave his family a true passion for food. Now married to a New Zealander and living in New Zealand working as a journalist, Nicky hordes her holidays so that she and her husband can return to Italy to see family, eat mozzarella and research her books.

Nicky had this to say to the New Zealand Woman's Weekly about the writing of this book.

 One of the things I’m most prone to criticising people – well, okay, my husband – for is wasting time on the internet. So it’s ironic that I was doing that very thing the day I had the beginnings of an idea for my latest novel, When In Rome.
To be fair, I wasn’t looking at cars and boats on TradeMe (like my husband does) but I did have a looming deadline for the book I was supposed to be working on.
Around that time I’d read a couple of novels that included real-life people as characters – writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Rupert Brooke. I started thinking of doing something similar. What followed was an entire afternoon spent watching clips on YouTube as I tried to decide whom I might write about.
By evening I had fallen in love with a Hollywood star called Mario Lanza. His voice was enchanting, with so much emotion in every word he sang it sent shivers down my spine, and he was handsome in that classic matinee idol way. Despite the fact that, in his day, he was bigger than Frank Sinatra, few people under the age of 50 have heard of him. Once I learned the details of his life, I wanted to base a novel on them.
I became obsessed; reading everything I could get my hands on, begging the ultra-trendy staff at Auckland’s Videon to go through their stock of old VHS in search of his musicals, listening to him in the car. I couldn’t get enough of him.
Writing the novel proved difficult though. My story takes place during the years Mario spent living in Italy and is told by a young woman who’s a member of his household. I needed to know what the real Mario was like in the privacy of his own home.
So I was thrilled when I managed to track down his only surviving child, Ellisa Lanza Bregman, who generously shared some of her memories with me.
When In Rome is a poignant story of love and music, set in the La Dolce Vita era. It’s about difficult men, glamorous women and hard choices.
All these years on there are still Mario Lanza fans around the world and I’m nervous of what they and Ellisa will think of the novel. I’m hoping that reading it moves them as much as writing it did me.
Most of all I hope my story inspires a new generation to discover Mario’s voice and music… even if that does involve wasting time on the internet.


  1. I've yet to read one of her books. This post has reminded me I want to! I'll add her to my library list for next week.
    I hope you're enjoying summer. We are sweltering down here today.

  2. Yesterday was a scorcher and I go t a little burnt. Needing to water everything to stop it dying!