Molto Mayhem is a romantic family-set story based around Lucia, freshly-returned to Tuscany from her new home in San Francisco, now hoping to spend time with her extended family, namely her slightly crazy aunt Christina and uncle Gianni, and a strange British guy called Aiden with whom she finds herself wandering dilapidated buildings in search of abandoned religious icons.
As in Eat, Pray, Love, the Italian flavor of this book lies in the crumbling herbs and baking of her uncle’s cooking, and the drifting beauty of the Tuscan landscape, and readers are going to find themselves salivating at the thought of home-made cornetti or grilled bread soaked in garlic and olive oil. Food descriptions are simply breathtaking in this book, something like Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen in their intoxicating loveliness. The eating is closely followed by nature. Touches of perfectly charming Italian tundra and fauna permeate this writing like a wonderful perfume for the reader to inhale on the breeze as they pass by.
Added to this, Brit Aiden is a very strong counterpart for Lucia, and here Wilsted gets to show off her knowledge of Italian artifacts through Aiden’s search for relics, which again is a really original and amusing angle, and gives many opportunities to strengthen the book with interesting Italian historical fact. This part of the book is reminiscent of The English Patient, when soldier Kip takes nurse Hana to see a church mural by candlelight, and also has some overtones of those British cinematic romances from the 90s with Hugh Grant or Colin Firth where they get mixed up with a foreigner and much lusting ensures.
There are also some downright hilariously wry exchanges as Aiden manages to play the Englishman abroad as he roams Italy – one such incident that produced a laugh-out-loud moment was when at a business meeting, Aiden is suddenly wearing a hat that resembles closely that worn by a gondolier, met by Italian jest, “Your hat is magnifico. Did you get it in Venice by chance?”
What isn’t so strong is the book’s format. There is an awful lot of dialogue here, and not always the necessary kind, almost at times to the point of being more of a screenplay than a novel. It’s almost a shame the book wasn’t written in first person, which would have afforded the author a lot more opportunity for interior thought for Lucia, and a possibility for these wonderful descriptions: what could really have enhanced the read is the descriptions and detail being the backbone of the book, a glue for the passion the author clearly has for Italy.
As it stands, the book at times may leave the reader scanning for the juicy bits – simply because this is where Wilsted absolutely shines as a writer. There’s no doubt as her writing develops, her books are just going to get more accomplished and, well, let’s hope, good enough to eat.
Anybody looking for a light and entertaining getaway read to literally whet the appetite, look no further than Molto Mayhem.