FEELS LIKE HOME

HEARTH AND HEART ARE INTERWINED IN A RO­MANCE READ­ERS WILL REL­ISH

Life & Style Weekend - - BOOK CLUB - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD

THE RIGHT PLACE Carla Caruso $29.99 HQ

There’s an old wis­dom for fledg­ling au­thors: to “write what you know”. Ade­laide au­thor Carla Caruso is hardly a novice but the sage ad­vice has in­fused her lat­est novel The Right Place with a warmth and in­sight that can only come from lived ex­pe­ri­ence. It is fore­most a love story set in mod­ern­day Ade­laide, Carla’s home town, draw­ing on her mem­o­ries of her Ital­ian grand­par­ents’ mar­ket gar­den, her own home­com­ing after three years as a fash­ion ed­i­tor in Syd­ney and her love of food. “There’s a lot from my real life in this one,” Carla says. “It’s parts of my life and in­spi­ra­tion from peo­ple I know.” It’s easy to sus­pect a lib­eral dash of Carla in her sassy hero­ine Nella Mar­tini who re­turns from a stalled fash­ion ca­reer and failed re­la­tion­ship in Mel­bourne to the mar­ket gar­den she is be­queathed by her beloved Nonna. Next door is the lease­holder Adrian, a boy Nella has known all her life. His twin brother was her first love and Adrian is none too happy about Nella’s re­turn, nor her un­spo­ken plans to sell the prop­erty, putting his liveli­hood and her­itage in the clutches of de­vel­op­ers. “There are a lot of ru­ral ro­mances and I thought ‘why don’t I do the Ital­ian ver­sion’ with a bit of a foodie, farm­ing back­ground to it,” Carla says. The mar­ket gar­den is set where her grand­par­ents’ was, along Ade­laide’s Mar­ion Road, now a busy traf­fic cor­ri­dor with sub­ur­bia and light in­dus­try re­plac­ing the thriv­ing plots of mi­grant fam­i­lies that dot­ted the road dur­ing her child­hood. Adrian has clung to the old ways, mak­ing his liv­ing grow­ing and de­liv­er­ing toma­toes and other pro­duce to the same cus­tomers his late fa­ther ser­viced. When Nella ar­rives in her un­suit­able heels and de­signer la­bels, there is in­stant fric­tion be­tween them. They have lit­tle in com­mon ex­cept the love for her Nonna, who Adrian be­lieves Nella de­serted for the bright lights and a glitzy ca­reer. “Yes, there is a bit of me in there,” Carla ad­mits. “Young peo­ple can be crit­i­cal of their home town and it’s only when they re­turn they can ap­pre­ci­ate what it has to of­fer. “There’s no real Adrian (oh, say it isn’t so) but Nonna’s story draws very much from my mum’s mum story.” In­ter­twined with the mod­ern-day love story is the tale of Esta who ar­rives in Aus­tralia with a young daugh­ter to join her hus­band and build a life in a for­eign land. Carla cap­tures the sto­icism, wis­dom and un­shake­able un­der­cur­rent of home­sick­ness that char­ac­terised a gen­er­a­tion of Aus­tralia’s post-war mi­grants. “My nonna’s heart was some­times in Italy but her im­me­di­ate fam­ily was all here,” Carla says. The novel is dot­ted with clas­sic home­style Ital­ian recipes which weave their way into the nar­ra­tive and lend a rich au­then­tic­ity to the tale. “Those come from my mum ac­tu­ally,” Carla says. “They’re prob­a­bly a bit more mod­ern than my non­nas’. “It’s great to have them there as a record, all in one easy place. I come from a line of good cooks but I like to eat more than I like to cook. The good thing is they’re not re­ally dif­fi­cult to make. They’re quite sim­ple — even some­one like me can mas­ter them.” The Right Place is not only a story about love, it is told with love. The quips and in­sights of sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tion Italoaus­tralians are ef­fort­lessly in­cor­po­rated. Many read­ers of Euro­pean back­grounds will no doubt recog­nise some of the fa­mil­iar themes. The Right Place seems the novel Carla was des­tined to write, from her early days of ask­ing her kindy teach­ers to take down the long and de­tailed sto­ries she was telling them. Her love of writ­ing steered her into jour­nal­ism and she has writ­ten sev­eral ebooks and ro­mance novel­las. She also has her own foodie blog, the­uni­tal­ian­wife.com, which she jug­gles with rais­ing twin boys, now five. It is fit­ting the novel is ded­i­cated to her late nonni, both her fa­ther’s and mother’s Ital­ian par­ents. But, the ques­tion re­mains, how will her large ex­tended fam­ily feel about her bor­row­ing some of the fam­ily his­tory, not to men­tion a few char­ac­ter traits they might find fa­mil­iar? Ah, it is the eter­nal dilemma of the fic­tion writer draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from real life. She’s about to find out at that most Ital­ian of oc­ca­sions, a big fam­ily wed­ding. “I don’t know how the aun­ties and the cousins will feel ac­tu­ally,” she ad­mits. “You don’t know whether they’ve found it strange or not. It can be weird if peo­ple see them­selves in the char­ac­ters. “I sup­pose I’ll find out at the wed­ding.” The sub­ject for an­other book no doubt, although her next one is a bit closer to home. It is about the love-hate re­la­tion­ship be­tween three half-ital­ian sis­ters and, yes, it draws on her re­la­tion­ship with her own two sis­ters. Treach­er­ous ter­rain in­deed but such is life, or cosi e la vita as the Ital­ians say.

“YOUNG PEO­PLE CAN BE CRIT­I­CAL OF THEIR HOME TOWN AND IT’S ONLY WHEN THEY RE­TURN THEY CAN AP­PRE­CI­ATE WHAT IT HAS TO OF­FER.

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