Nicky Pellegrino – A Year at Hotel Gondola

Hachette NZ 2018

New Zealand resident Nicky Pellegrino is the author of 10 fiction novels which draw on her Italian ancestry and visits to family in southern Italy.

A Year at Hotel Gondola is the latest of these and the first I have read. Her website tells us that she focusses on friendship, food, passion and family secrets.

Good old Wiki tells us : Chick lit or chick literature is genre fiction, which “consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists”. The genre often addresses issues of modern womanhood – from romantic relationships to female friendships to matters in the workplace – in humorous and lighthearted ways. At its onset, chick lit’s protagonists tended to be “single, white, heterosexual, British and American women in their late twenties and early thirties, living in metropolitan areas”. The genre became popular in the late 1990s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit

I guess it falls into the category of chick lit – I am often bemused by this categorising as it seems to me that simply because a novel’s main character is a woman and the book about things of concern to many women, it is easy for critics to be snooty and dismissive. The term is used as a put down. Popularity is also often a source of criticism. And there we have the old debate about literary and popular fiction and the relative value of each.

For me it is horses for courses. Both have their place. We can’t always tackle Proust, especially on a flight.

Did I enjoy reading A Year at Hotel Gondola? I did – not least because it allowed me to reminisce on our own travels to Venice some years ago and smile over the pitfalls of a first journey, which would not be repeated by the experienced, whilst also remembering with fondness the many famous sights and sounds of Venice.

Kat Black, the heroine, is sufficiently flawed and self-absorbed to allow her to learn things along the way and the novel’s population of quirky characters, albeit stereotypes, not the least bit unlikely. So please – let’s not get hung up on popularity, worthiness and the like and allow ourselves to read eclectically for enjoyment, relaxation, escape and education.

Listen to Barbie’s interview with Nicky Pellegrino