A few weeks ago, I received a request to review Australian writer Catherine McNamara's debut novel "The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy" . To be honest and even though I was flattered that finally I was invited to review a book of fiction (keep 'em coming!), I was hesitant, thinking that perhaps this was a Lombard cousin of Under the Tuscan Sun, where the protagonist would renovate a fashion house instead of a farm house. Then I reread the last line of McNamara's blurb: But sexy glamorous Milan is about as unfeeling as a Prada bag.
Dang. That's harsh. And anyone willing to write that sentence must have a sense of humor.
The Divorced Lady's Companion is fast-paced, snarky and deliciously humorous. In a nutshell, its the story of Londoner Marilyn Wade who post-40 divorce sends her spiraling down to Milan to follow the seemingly charmed reincarnation of an old and somewhat mythic acquaintance. Language problems, fake friendships, a psychic, Italian boyfriends, S & M, shopping and ex-husbands are the expected hijinks, and McNamara writes them quite well.
For all the pitfalls, misguidance and naivete as Marilyn traipses through Milan, she is as endearing as she is persistent in getting further away from her divorce. She doesn't see Milan through rose-colored glasses- if anything, she sees it through the bottom of a shot of grappa: slightly bitter, definitely strong and with a necessary buzz. Divorce and Milan are just supporting cast to showing how a mid-40s woman can grow up and out just a bit.
McNamara's writing had me laughing out loud at Marilyn's hijinks and their impossibilities. Unrealistic? Absolutely and not at all, remember this is Italy and the impossible does often happen. Combined with exaggerated yet plausible stereotypes of women and men, whether British, Italian or otherwise, the Divorced Lady's Companion is fun, aggressive and definitely a page turner-- with a sneaky bit of "slice of life", Milan style.
Indigo Dreams Publishing, March 2012