Blurb from Goodreads
Told with the intimacy and ferocity of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels and set in the passionate, intense, and crumbling neighborhood known as the Spanish Quarter of Naples, comes a tale of two students searching for love and belonging in the city they so desperately want to call home.
Several years after leaving Naples, Heddi receives an email from Pietro, her first love, admitting that he was wrong. Immediately Heddi is transported back to her college days in that heartbreakingly beautiful city built on the ruins of a legendary empire set against the backdrop of a sleeping volcano. The narrow, winding streets of Naples’s Spanish Quarter still sparks the pain of longing and a desire to belong. It is the place she so wanted to call home despite being l’americano. But for Heddi’s tribe of university friends, Naples was the first taste of freedom and an escape from their familial obligations. For all of them Naples is a place that they’ll never forget: the setting of their unrestrained youth.
In this poignant, atmospheric coming of age tale of first love—of a place, of a person—languages and cultures collide while dreams soar and crash in spectacular ways.
“Lost in the Spanish Quarter” tells the story of two university students who meet and fall in love in the Spanish Quarter of Naples. Heddi is American studying languages and Pietro is from a rural part of Southern Italy studying geology.
The book opens sort of abruptly with Heddi and Pietro’s first meeting after happening a short time earlier off page and it’s a little confusing to follow how and why it is that these two people are so inextricably drawn to each other.
The book then becomes a little clearer and follows their love story as they figure out how to balance their love with the pressures that Pietro experiences from his familial responsibilities.
Interspersed between this falling in love narrative are emails exchanged between Heddi and Pietro at some future date and it is immediately made apparent that their love story did not have a happy ever after and that they ultimately broke up. The reasons for their break up are not perfectly spelled out but it was no doubt Pietro’s decision and this seems to consume the older Pietro.
I never quite understood the love story between Heddi and Pietro which made this novel somewhat difficult to read. I couldn’t understand why Heddi was giving so much of herself to this man who frequently acted quite selfishly, treated her poorly and took her very much for granted. She was supposedly quite intelligent but I guess the old adage love is blind was very much in vogue where Heddi was concerned. So even though the book was primarily from Heddi’s PoV I still couldn’t find that connection with her as a character that I was seeking.
I much preferred the email exchange between the older versions of Heddi and Pietro. So much so that I wish the majority of the novel was just these exchanges. I was able to empathise with these versions of both main character so much more than I was with their younger counterparts.
I also felt the novel was too long and contained far too many type situations that seemed like they were just repeating events that had gone before e.g. numerous dinner parties and festivities in the Spanish Quarter, almost identical visits to Pietro’s family home etc etc. Sadly I frequently found myself getting bored by this book and kept hoping that it would end more quickly than it did.
However, I did like the ultimate end point of the plot as I felt that both characters had learned something both interesting to the reader and valuable for themselves by the book’s last pages.
Sadly, I have to say that overall this was not a book to my personal taste. I think it is a book only to be recommended to people with a keen interest in learning about life in Naples that don’t mind slow paced stories.
An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Via, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.