Monday, March 21, 2011

Head Over Heel: Chris Harrison

I love to travel. I'm not sure when it started, but for as long as I can remember, I have felt the urge to wander the world. While I have seen a great many wonderful places, there is always somewhere new to experience for the first time. Since I can't actually afford to spend my money on travel, I read about it instead. Head Over Heel: Seduced By Southern Italy took me to one of the places I have longed to see, and am now more eager than ever to visit.

Chris Harrison met Daniela in a pub while both were vacationing in Ireland. It seems ludicrous to imagine that such a meeting could result in true love, but Head Over Heel is Harrison's love story. It's hard to say whether Italy is the backdrop for this romance, or if the romance is the setting for Italy. Chris does the unimaginable by leaving his Australian life to be with Daniela in Italy. What seems like a doomed idea from the very beginning, turns out to be a wild adventure filled with colorful landscapes and characters. Chris narrates his adventures in Italy, from the exciting newness of the small, seaside town of Andrano, to the dull days spent working in Milan. As Chris learns the complicated processes of becoming an Australian living in Italy, his love for the country waxes and wans, while his love for Daniela pushes him to pursue a future with her.

Having moved to another country for a short time, I am well acquainted with the challenges of learning a new country, trying to make it your own. Something as simple as buying a loaf of bread or finding an ATM can be exhausting and result in a complete meltdown. Harrison easily describes the challenges without reserve, illustrating the often humorous situations that foreigners find themselves in. There is so much comedy in error that the humor of this story is inherent. Even if you've never left your hometown, it's hard to deny a giggle when Chris describes his future mother-in-law, scolding him for owning underpants in any color other than white. The absurdity of Italy's many law keepers and their failure to protect Italy's many ridiculous laws, are described as a joke to Italians, and by the end of this book, I sympathized. 

Harrison brought his story to life in such a way that I also fell in and out of love with Italy. The foods, the people, the climate, the silly laws and superstitions, the dirty politicians, the helpful communities... Everything that Harrison describes is stimulating and exciting. I can't imagine reading this book and not wanting to see Southern Italy.

Rating: $$$

ARC received courtesy of Nicholas Brealey Publishing

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