Faye has just completed her degree in interior design when she finds herself jobless and boyfriend-less. While debating what to do next she receives a surprise phone call from her old college friend Charlotte who now lives in Sardinia and is married to Italian hotelier, Fabio.
When Charlotte suggests that Faye relocate for a month to house-sit, Faye wonders summer break in sunny Sardinia might be the perfect way to recharge her batteries and think about her future . But then Charlotte tells Faye that there’s something more behind the sudden invitation: her friends Marissa and Alessandro are looking for a designer to renovate a crumbling old theatre they own in the scenic village of Deriu. The idea certainly sounds appealing to Faye, but little does she know what she is letting herself in for if she accepts this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Little Theatre by the Sea has the perfect combination of sun, sea, sand, scandal and Sardinia. It is well written book that really captures the sights and sounds of Sardinia as well as its turbulent history. Rosanna Ley’s descriptive writing brings the Island to life and is demonstrative of the research done for this book.
The chapters divide the narrative of Faye in Sardinia, facing the challenge of the theatre renovation and the hostility of the locals, with her parents marriage that is falling apart. I found her parents story very touching; it brought to the fore that as children of whatever age, we do sometimes forget that parents are people too, with a life separate to that of their children. I think Abe and Molly represent a demographic of their time, getting married due to a pregnancy , keeping problems to themselves and staying together for the sake the children. After retirement they suddenly find themselves spending more time together and slowly all those repressed feelings come out and boil over.
Faye was a character I really admired for following her dreams by leaving her secure job as a PA to go to university and study Interior Design. Her enthusiasm for her new job really comes through in Rosanna Ley’s writing. There is obviously a love interest in Alessandro, the dark, brooding secretive gorgeous Italian, who blurs the line between client and something more. There are also many secrets among the other residents of Deriu, who are not all on board with the renovations for reasons of their own; Pasquale, who acted at the theatre and whose father was the caretaker; Enrico Volti who also wants it left alone due to a feud with the Alessandro and Marissa concerning ownership of the theatre.
The theme of renovation, the past and the present working together runs throughout the narrative. In the Theatre there is the balance of keeping the original architecture but including some modern elements to bring it up to date to suit modern needs. It is also apparent in the mix of Deriu, the old historical village merged with newer buildings of the growing village, as well as with the residents; family feuds from the past continuing the present and the mistrust of anyone new to Deriu. Ade and Molly have to let go of past mistakes to give them a chance of a future together; we all need to renovate our lives at some point to take us into the future.
The Little Theatre by the Sea is the perfect summer read; it has a beautiful setting; interesting characters and a engaging story line full of romance, heartache, secrets, and some surprises. Pure escapism for the summer.