Carlo, a part-time professor of creative writing, and Margherita, an architect-turned-real estate-agent: a happily married couple in their mid-thirties, perfectly attuned to each other’s restlessness. They are in love, but they also harbour desires that stray beyond the confines of their bedroom: Carlo longs for the quiet beauty of one of his students, Sofia; Margherita fantasises about the strong hands of her physiotherapist, Andrea.
The dream of a new flat, suspended between the old cobbled streets of Milan and the modern skyline cutting the horizon, might just help Carlo and Margherita bring down the wall Sofia and Andrea have built between them. But it is love, with its unassuming power, which ultimately pulls them from the brink, aided by Margherita’s mother Anna, the couple’s anchor and lighthouse – a wise, proud seamstress hiding her own disappointments.
But after eight years of repressed desires and the birth of a son, when the past resurfaces in the form of books sent anonymously, not even Anna might be strong enough to save them.
Hi and welcome to my review of Fidelity!
To be perfectly honest, I wanted to read this book first and foremost because of its setting. I love Italy and I don’t read nearly enough books set there. I also really wanted to try a book by an Italian author as most of the translated literature I read is by Scandinavian authors, so I guess you could say I was looking to expand my horizons by reading Fidelity.
In that aspect, Fidelity did its jobs nicely. Set in beautiful Milan, Fidelity breathes Italy and I gobbled it up like a quattro stagioni pizza. I felt my own memories of the city come flooding back and that definitely made me appreciate the setting even more. I also loved the author’s writing style, and what the translator did with it: creating a story for an English-speaking audience to enjoy while still conveying the authentic Italian vibe. Not an easy feat.
However, I had some issues with Fidelity as well. I don’t know why but I was expecting more thriller elements thrown in there, and there weren’t. That’s all on me of course, that’s not the book’s fault, I should have read the synopsis more attentively. I was still happy to read it as contemporary fiction, never my go-to genre but I do like to mix genres, shake things up a bit.
Unfortunately, I soon came across an element that really bothered me, notably dog fights. It’s not a huge part of the story, but even the smallest mention of such things makes my skin crawl, and it was more than a mere side note. That didn’t quite gel with me and I considered DNF’ing right there and then. I didn’t, I hoped that particular topic would be dead and buried before long, and fortunately it was, but it did somewhat sour both my mood and the way I felt about this book.
Let’s talk about (in)fidelity for a moment. I’m usually not that bothered about infidelity in fiction, if I were I probably would not have picked up Fidelity. I was especially okay with it in this story, because both partners have the hots for other people. I was extremely grateful though that it never turned into any kind of Fifty Shades of Grey shenanigans. No offense, but erotica and stories bordering on erotica are just not my thing. The cover had me thinking that it might get sexy, but that if it did, it would be in a rather tasteful way, and in a way that furthered the plot instead of distracting from it, and I was very happy I was not deceived on that account. If anything it’s the psychological rather than physical relationship between the spouses that takes precedence over all else, and their relationships with their child and their parents. Rather than being overly explicit Fidelity speaks of temptation, of desire, of being seduced without actual seduction.
I ended up with mixed feeling about Fidelity. Turning the final page, I was glad that I’d stuck with it, as the story and its characters did grown on me and I ended up having a good time with it and them, but for me to love contemporary fiction means to love the characters and I never really got there. Fidelity sure has its strong points, but for me it missed a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, call it a spark, a bit of pizzazz.
Fidelity is out on 15 April in all formats, don’t let my mixed feelings stop you from checking it out!
Thanks to W&N and Alex Layt for the review copy. All opinions are still my own.