I’m a hopeless romantic and I love to travel so I’m thrilled to have That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina on my TBR as I have a feeling it’s going to appeal to both aspects very effectively! Today I’m delighted to be celebrating That Summer in Puglia. by bringing you an interview with Valeria conducted by those lovely folk at Bookollective.
That Summer in Puglia
Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down. Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief. Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts?
That Summer In Puglia is a tale of love, loss, the perils of self-deception and the power of compassion. Puglia offers an ideal setting: its layers of history are integral to the story, itself an excavation of a man’s past; Tommaso’s increasingly vivid memories of its sensuous colours, aromas and tastes, and of how it felt to love and be loved, eventually transform the discomforting tone with which he at first tries to keep Will and painful truths at a distance. This remarkable debut combines a gripping plot and perceptive insights into human nature with delicate lyricism.
A Bookollective Interview with Valeria Vescina
Who is your perfect reader?
I think my ideal readers probably fall into two overlapping camps because of That Summer in Puglia’s different layers. I hope that if you enjoy the psychological tension in the fiction of Salley Vickers or Sandor Marai, and the lyricism of Marilynne Robinson or Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, That Summer in Puglia will be a book for you. Like these authors, I aimed for lightness of touch whilst dealing with universal themes: grief, love and the need for compassion. The book might appeal to you also if you like novels occupying the ‘space’ where psychology, philosophy, history and the arts meet: it requires no knowledge of these subjects, but those drawn to them will spot unobtrusive allusions. I imagine that many readers’ preferences span, in any event, both kinds of fiction. In addition, the book might intrigue those who, having enjoyed Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, are eager to discover the cultural diversity and richness of Southern Italy.
What books are on your bedside table?
My bedside table includes fiction and non-fiction. I’m enjoying La vita com’è, Grazia Verasani’s novel about the writing life, relationships, intergenerational dialogue, and much more. There is also Kai Aareleid’s Burning Cities, a compelling historical novel I’ve just reviewed for the Baltics edition of The Riveter Magazine. I’m dipping in and out of Literary Wonderlands, a mesmerising compendium of essays on fictional worlds, from those in The Epic of Gilgamesh to the ones in Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. And I’m re-reading chapters of Gabriel Josipovici’s The Teller and the Tale, a treasure of insights into literature, music, history…
Do you have a writing routine?
My various roles – personal and professional – don’t easily allow for a writing routine. However, I organise myself so as to be able to fit in my writing and all other commitments. The time management skills acquired during my previous career are definitely helpful.
Where do you write best?
I write best in the mountains. Whenever I’ve needed to tackle a crucial writing challenge – a fresh revision of a draft of That Summer in Puglia, or the development of the plot of my next novel – I’ve shut myself for a week or two in the Alps. Creativity and new perspectives come so easily to me there; and the quantity and quality of the writing benefits from allowing myself time for uninterrupted immersion in the world of the novel.
Where did you inspiration for That Summer in Puglia come from?
That Summer in Puglia is the fruit of a lifetime of reflections flowing into the imagination. My protagonist, Tommaso, has been missing from Italy for over thirty years. The death of a parent during Tommaso’s childhood sets off a tragic sequence of events. The novel is about the countervailing power of love – of friendship, of romantic relationships, of strangers’ kindness… – which requires compassion for oneself and others. I did not set out to write about these themes – they emerged in the process of writing – but I had reflected on them over the years. In London, seeing notices of missing persons at railway stations fills me with sadness; I’ve wondered about the suffering behind each of those posters. Like most parents, when my children were little I occasionally asked myself how they’d cope if I were to die. In my previous work in executive search I was, at first, surprised by the resentments which ostensibly successful people had held onto for a very long time. Last but not least, my native Puglia provided inspiration: how can its layers of history and different cultures fail to spark musings on the layers of any society and person – and on the interaction between the two?
What are you working on next?
My second novel will also be set in Puglia, but in the 1500s. It will be inspired by historical events, and the main protagonists will be women. I’ve been carrying out the necessary research for years – in Italian libraries and archives, the British Library, the Bodleian… – and can’t wait to start writing the story. Microhistory – the study of one or more persons from another era – can reveal a surprising amount about the present day. I’m hopeful that the novel will illustrate how deep the roots of Western society’s attitudes towards women’s behaviour and aspirations are
About Valeria Vescina
Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). That Summer In Puglia (Eyewear Publishing, 2018) is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network. She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).