Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?
Every year Milly and her family visit Rome, stay with her mum's sister and her fiancé, visit the hotel where Milly's dad worked in his youth. This year Milly's aunt is getting married and its the first summer since her dad died unexpectedly. For the first time in their lives, Milly and her two sisters will be visiting Italy without their dad and, still grieving, they know that nothing will be quite the same.
On top of dealing with her own uncertainty about the future, the changes she has seen in her sisters, and the grief still overwhelming all of their family, Milly has the added bad luck of knowing that Luke will be there. Luke, her cousin's best friend who she has known and had a crush on for many years, and who she thoroughly embarrassed herself in front of after her dad's funeral...
One Italian Summer was mostly a fun, quick read, that immediately made me wish I was in Rome eating ice cream and pushing through the crowds of tourists at the Trevi Fountain too. There was an undercurrent though, a constant theme throughout the story, of the overwhelming grief this family is feeling in this beautiful place that meant so much to Milly's dad. The fun parts of the book felt bubbly and alive, and the parts about their grief winded me and at times made me shed real tears.
There are a lot of different threads going on in this novel and, honestly, at times it did start to feel a little much for such a short book. Milly has a lot going on and it did leave me feeling that there were certain aspects of her life I would have liked to have seen more of or that I could have done without.
For example, Milly used to be in a band but since her father died she no longer talks to those friends. This was so briefly touched upon, however, that I often completely forgot about it until the next time it was mentioned. On the other hand I really enjoyed the way that the novel deals with Milly's growing sense of her own sexuality. Milly's interactions with Luke and their history felt very realistic, particularly because Stainton doesn't shy away from Milly's sexuality. That was refreshing to read. And, as I touched on above, I felt that Milly's grief was beautifully handled throughout the novel.
All in all, One Italian Summer is something a little different and, although I had my small complaints, I would still absolutely recommend it for all its positive aspects, which definitely outweigh them.