By: Lucy Foley
Opening Line: “Essaouria feels like the end of the world.”
Overall: This book begins in Rome in the early 1950’s. Hal is a post-war journalist who is just scraping by in life. He is battling guilt over a past decision that he can’t get over making. He feels like he is undeserving of happiness. Then one night, a friend can’t accept an invitation to a fancy party, so Hal goes in his place. At this very exclusive party he meets a Contessa, and he also meets a mysterious woman named Stella. He is instantly attracted to her by her stunning beauty, and she is to him because he is not like all the other rich, fancy people at the party. They leave the party together and go off on their own for the night. But, Stella leaves the next morning, and Hal is regretful that they will never see eachother again. A year later, the Italian Contessa has a film to bring to the Cannes Film Festival, and offers an invitation to Hal to come along. He is to sail on her yacht with the cast and crew of the movie and he is to be the journalist on board who submits stories for publicity in the papers. It is not the type of writing that Hal normally does, but he needs the money and he thinks sailing along the Italian Riviera will be good for him. However, Hal soon discovers that Stella is also a passenger on this yacht and is traveling with her rich, handsome American husband. Hal and Stella are still drawn to eachother and find that they have feeling for eachother still. They secretly try to spend time together during the trip, trying to avoid the suspicion and anger of Stella’s possessive husband. They bond by telling eachother the secret pains that they have both been carrying since the war. They fall in love but don’t see how they can ever be together since she is already married and lives in America with her very jealous husband.
Ovations: I love Old Hollywood! My favorite movies are from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. The fact that this book was about Hollywood film stars sailing to Cannes in the 1950’s along the Mediterranean Sea were all the facts that made me want to read this book. Plus, it was a love story too. Who doesn’t want to read a story about two people in love sailing on a spectacular yacht along the Italian Riviera on the way to France? I would love to move to the South of France if I could! This book has so many enjoyable elements to it, I thought I would love this book. Unfortunately that was not the case. One of the best parts about the book were the beautiful descriptions of all the locations they saw along the way. Also, the Contessa was an enjoyable character. She was more than just a lovely hostess, she was behind the scenes making things happen for people, helping them out.
Oh Well: This book was sssooo slow. It was over 400 pages, and it went on way too long about trivial things, and did not get into enough details about the more important things. Also, there was a weird and totally unnecessary side-story about a legend of an old sea captain that did not need to be in the book at all. Meanwhile, I felt that the main love story between Hal and Stella was not developed enough. There was a lot of waiting between the scenes where they were together. There could have been so much more written about their relationship and it could have been written so much richer, fuller, and more in depth than it was.
Opinion: Because the pacing of this book was so slow, there were points that I almost did not finish reading the book. But, I did keep reading and finally finished the book. It did have a satisfying ending for me, so I was happy I completed it. However, this book did not live up to the beautiful locations, Old Hollywood, romantic love story I was expecting it to be. With all it had going for it, this could have been a much more engaging and sophisticated book than it was. Rating: 5 out of 10