A Year at Hotel Gondola is Nicky Pellegrino’s tenth novel, and it has all the trademarks of her previous books – food, friendship and love, all with an Italian backdrop. This time the action is set in Venice. Kat Black is a fifty-year-old adventurer and TV presenter who has spent her life travelling to far-flung destinations, never staying in one place for very long. But when she arrives in Venice for work, she ends up falling in love with an Italian man, Massimo. She commits to spending a year in Venice, where she will help Massimo run his guesthouse, Hotel Gondola, while writing a book about the experience.
At the back of Kat’s mind is something her mother has said to her, that seems to influence her decision to spend a year in Venice. ‘Twenty good years. That’s what you’ve got left at your age.’ So Kat decides to embark on the greatest adventure of her life – a committed relationship. Kat looks forward to a year in Venice, and for her book plans to write about her experiences as she lives them – the food she eats, the recipes she collects, the people she meets, and about Massimo who she is still getting to know.
But everything is much more complicated than Kat would have first thought. Massimo is run off his feet at the hotel, and it’s difficult to find time together. His ex-wife is poking her nose in where she shouldn’t, and Kat is uncomfortable with her influence in Massimo’s life. Then there is Kat’s new exotic older friend Coco who is larger than life with many lovers, but Coco doesn’t like the clothes Kat wears and has many opinions about Kat’s life. There is also the charming widow Ruth, who sees people’s energy as colour, and who likes to paint, but who is reluctant to consider romantic love again. It doesn’t help when Kat meets Dante, a fellow foodie, and she finds it much easier to talk to him than Massimo. Her friends in London are taking bets that she won’t last the year with Massimo – but even if Kat does, what happens once the year is over? Will she just go back to her travelling ways or will she be in a loving relationship?
The structure of this novel is nicely done that the chapters alternate between Kat and Kat’s book that she is writing. It was interesting to see Kat editing her life in the chapters from the book, and it added another layer to the story seeing what Kat was omitting.
A Year at Hotel Gondola is a novel of a woman discovering herself and learning there are many things in life she has missed out on, despite her enviable success. It’s a story of a woman making mistakes and learning that relationships take effort and honesty – and that she needs to go through some heartbreak and look at some home truths to come out the other side.
The streets of Venice come alive as we walk them beside Kat, and it’s full of the sights, smells and sounds of this romantic city. A Year at Hotel Gondola is a warm and engaging read, with relationships and food at its core. The recipes scattered throughout the book are a welcome bonus. A Year at Hotel Gondola is both delicious and delightful!