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October book club - An Italian Summer

(60 Posts)
LauraGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 01-Oct-18 11:21:34

Hi everyone! Official October book club thread here smile

You should be starting to receive your copies of Fanny Blake's book so, once you've read it, please do leave your questions and comments for Fanny below.

If you've borrowed or bought a copy yourself, you're very welcome to join the conversation too.

Happy reading!

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:16:01


I was exhausted by the heat and the pace of the Italian tour and I was sitting reading in the autumnal UK.
The plot was predictable. I was rooting for Alice to get back to a life she'd love. Not so much for Sandy as her Italian adventure was not so easy to believe.
There was an emphasis on same sex couples having children...did the author add this to make the story contemporary?

There wasn’t a conscious emphasis. The story is contemporary, of course, so it makes sense that there might be same sex couples with children in the mix. While I was writing, I was thinking about what ‘family’ means today and was trying to show that there are all sorts of different ways to have one, traditional and otherwise.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:16:49


This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I found it a pleasant holiday read: light, enjoyable and an effortless way of savouring Rome and Naples without having to endure the scorching heat of high summer! Having been on a few small group holidays over the years, I thought that the author captured the experience beautifully: the different alliances formed, secrets shared, problems aired. The characters are immediately recognisable: the cheery and over-enthusiastic tour guide, the predators (both male and female), the know-alls, the show-offs, the fun-lovers, the insecure. The Italian setting is perfect too: one feels that the author really knows the country well. The book could almost be used as a guide: the “must see” locations (and some of the “maybe don’t bother” ones) described in vivid detail.
Spoiler alert - As for Sandy, I found her very likeable and wanted things to turn out well for her. Her sadness over the loss of her husband, death of her mother, uncertainty about her new relationship, her work and family concerns, all were sympathetically and realistically portrayed. I enjoyed the storyline too, even if it did all come together rather too neatly for me in the end.
My question for the author: I found the attention to detail quite impeccable and should like to ask about the nature and extent of your research, beyond the “relentless fortnight” referred to in the Acknowledgements!
Thanks to Fanny Blake for a good read and to Gransnet for introducing me to this author flowers

I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. Thank you. I’ve visited Rome and Naples before but I didn’t need to do more than the ‘relentless fortnight’ to remind myself of the places I loved and to discover some new. When I started writing the novel, I knew the places where some scenes would be set but then I discovered other ones that were new to me eg Il Cimitero delle Fontanelle in Naples that I then wanted to include. I made a lot of notes and took a lot of photos so I had plenty to refer to when I was back at my desk.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:17:32


Thank you so much for this delightful read! Having visited Rome, Naples & the Amalfi Coast at different times it was a delight to be able to reminisce & revisit a lot of the places mentioned in the story. Although a lighthearted story I enjoyed it very much as a bedtime read & was easy to pick up & put down, I don’t like anything too gritty.
I think it’s fascinating that Fanny was able to research the places in Italy for her story & ask if there is anywhere else in the world she would like to visit & maybe use as a location for future books. Does Fanny always have a few ideas/story plots on the back burner ready to be expanded?
Having not read any of Fanny’s books before it’s something I intend to remedy & will be purchasing her past books, a delightful author. ?

The book I’m writing now is set in Mallorca. I’d like to set other books abroad but I’m not sure at the moment where they will be. I’ve been to India several times but I think perhaps the next one might be Greece. I don’t really have many ideas on the back burner while I’m writing a novel. When I get towards the end of one, ideas for the next begin to take shape. I know writers who talk about ideas queuing like aeroplanes waiting for take off, but I’d be too distracted by them if that happened to me. I prefer working on one thing at a time with a vague idea of what next mulling in the back of my mind.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:18:09


Well I have finished it and have been roughly transported from the heat of an Italian summer back to the cold reality of NE England. It is that sort of a book. It gives you a real feel for Italy, Rome and Naples in particular.
Spoiler Alert!
I did wonder about happy endings and people getting their just deserts and if Fanny feels this is one of the requirements of her novels. Everything does seem to work out for the people you come to like in the book.
I did like the friendship which developed between Alice and Sandy helping them both cope with their problems.

I don’t feel it’s particular requirement of my publisher, but I do like to have the stories rounded off in some way even if you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen to the characters. It would be unsatisfying not to have various end tied off. However I do try to leave the odd question mark for the reader. So how will Sandy and Steven work things out? What will happen to Alice? Will she be happy or will she find someone else? And so on.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:19:18


An enjoyable read for someone like me who loves Italy (although I've never been to the areas mentioned in the book but now definitely plan to do just that).

I found myself stopping the book every so often to Google and read up about a place, a painting or a sculpture.

The characters were well-drawn, I liked (understood) the friendship that developed between Sandy and Alice. I really liked Steven smile

My question to the author is - how long is a book like this in the making? As someone else has said, the research seems pretty extensive.

I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you. I was only in Italy for two weeks but the research was very targeted. I knew where I particularly wanted to go and had even booked the cookery lesson. I had visited both cities before so was already quite familiar with them so it was a question of revisiting and reminding myself as well as picking up pieces of local colour.

I’m contracted by my publisher to write a book a year so I’d say the book takes some weeks to think about and plan a little, then about six months to write, plus another two or three to edit, copyedit and proofread.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:19:58


An enjoyable holiday read. The characters were well drawn and the descriptions of Rome and Naples were wonderfully vivid. I thought the way everything suddenly came together and got sorted out at the end was a bit glib - did Alice really already live so close she could stay at Sandy's home while still getting to her new job? But a minor quibble! I would be interested to know if Fanny Blake plans everything before she starts to write, or whether once the characters are coming to life, she lets them take over and lead the story along?

I usually start with a theme and the central character. Then I’ll think about the setting. I then work out who else I’ll need to explore the theme, the opening of the novel, some key incidents along the way and the ending. I think a lot about the characters, who they are what their backstories are. I try and write quite full biographies for them before I start. As I write, things do change though, the characters inevitably develop and sometimes I have to rein them in a bit so the novel goes in the direction I’ve planned. Occasionally a new character makes an unexpected appearance and that can change the energy of a scene or even of the novel as a whole. In An Italian Summer, I hadn’t planned on Daniele being there at all. It was only once I’d got to the Naples section that it began to take shape.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:20:43


This was just the right type of book for me at the moment. Concentration and time are both limited and this was ideal as I could read a few pages and easily return a day or two later.

Trips to Italy are among my favourites, it was good to be able to see it again through the descriptive passages. The friendship between Sandy and Alice seemed both feasible and very real. I would have liked Sandy to be a little tougher earlier in the book, she irritated me in the beginning but I warmed to her later.

My ‘wonders’ for the author echo many others expressed here. Has Fanny lived in Italy, how was the research carried out? Might there be any plans for a sequel or even series? Either focused on Italy, Sandy or other characters from this book?

Thank you GN and Fanny, this book was well timed for me.

I haven’t lived in Italy but I’ve been there often and knew Rome and Naples a little already. I did go back for two weeks, having decided exactly what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go. I thought it was important to be there myself so that I could pick up on the local colour that you can’t really get by looking at lots of youtube films! You can’t taste the food, smell the smells and see the details of everyday life that go on.

No plans for a sequel, I’m afraid. Although now you mention it … I’d never say never.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:21:37


Great book and a lovely holiday read. I've never been to Italy but I'm sure I would love it after reading this book. Not only the historic sites but also the delicious food! I would also like to hear from Fanny about how she researched it and how long it took.

Thank you. Oh, I’m sure you’d love it. There are so many fascinating cities, beautiful countryside, and wonderful things to see. As for the food … I’ve really answered this question above but it took a two-week visit to crystallise all my thoughts and to inspire me. I’ve visited Rome and Naples before but I went back for a fortnight to remind myself of the sounds and smells and general local colour. I took lots of notes and photos so that I was well equipped when I was back at my desk.

FannyBlakeAuthor Mon 12-Nov-18 14:22:03


Am just musing on the thought that perhaps Fanny has actually met a Lia/Peter or seen such a 'relationship', fleeting 'though it actually was, develop. Or, perhaps the ideas are all in the mind of an fiction-writing author.....?

Not exactly. But, no doubt you too have seen so many women behave in extreme ways when they’re in their forties, not in a relationship and desperate for a baby. It’s such a strong natural urge that’s impossible to ignore and drives people to behave in ways others wouldn’t. Lia isn’t based on any one in particular, though Mark might have had his origins in someone I knew a very long time ago. The less said the better! I have been on several small group tours though and am fascinated by the dynamics of those groups. They so often seem to divide in the same pattern, often with a character who isn’t accepted by the others. There really can be a surprising intensity to the friendships and relationships formed in such a short time once people have settled in to the group.