Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson – review

Published by Fleet Books

Publication date – 12 May 2016

Source – review copy

‘See Naples and die’, said Goethe. But Katherine Wilson saw Naples and started to live.

Katherine is fresh out of college when she arrives in Naples to intern at the US Consulate. There she meets handsome, studious Salvatore, and finds herself enveloped by his family – in particular by his elegant mother, Raffaella, who begins her real education: never eat the crust of a pizza first, always stand up and fight for yourself and your loved ones, and remember that mealtimes are sacred.

Immersed in Neapolitan culture, tradition and cooking, slowly and unexpectedly falling for Salvatore, and basking in Raffaella’s company and guidance, Katherine discovers how to prepare meals that sing, from rich ragù to pasta al forno, with bacon, béchamel and four kinds of cheese. Through courtship, culture clashes, Sunday Mass, marriage and motherhood, Katherine slowly comes to appreciate carnale, the quintessentially Neapolitan sense of comfort and confidence in one’s own skin.

Steeped in sunlight, wine and unforgettable food, Only in Naples is a love letter to a city and a family, a coming-of-age story, and a transporting account of learning to live the Italian way.

Katherine Wilson heads to Naples for work experience in the US Consulate. Little does she realise she will fall in love, with Naples, with Italy and with Salvatore and his family.

Only in Naples is a love story. A true story. It is a book about finding a home and a family on the other side of the world.

The more I read, the more I fell under the spell of the Neapolitan culture. It was a pleasure to read about the lives and loves of Katherine, Salvatore and his family. It was also interesting to see how cultures compared, the differences often stark to a non native such as Katherine, who in turn often provoked incredulity with her Italian family when she told them of US customs.

The book is not only a memoir of a love affair but is in fact a tale of a love affair with a country and a society. And also a culinary love story. It becomes apparent that food plays a major role in the lives of Neapolitans. Emotions are expressed through what is made. The amount of love that goes into preparing a meal is seen in direct proportion to the love felt by those who make the food for those who consume it. Food is used as allegories, as tokens of affection and as non-verbal communication. It can show courtship, romance, customs, history, compassion or signal the break down in a relationship. It also means that you will inevitably be hungry when reading this book.

It also made me keen to visit Naples. Katherine Wilson’s obvious love for the city is evident in the book. The writing is engaging and animated. I could easily imagine the scenes depicted and the more I read, the more I wanted to visit.

Only in Naples is not just a travelogue or a memoir. It is a book about learning to live in another country, to speak another language and to find ways of bridging cultural barriers. It is told with gentle humour and an engaging style.

About the author

Katherine Wilson was raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at the Sidwell Friends School and Princeton University. For the past nineteen years she has worked in theatre, television and film as well as freelance translating in Italy. She lives in Rome with her husband and two children.

This was book 11 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds fantastic! Italy and food – two of my favourite things 😉 Popping it on my wish list now.


    1. janetemson says:

      Hope you like it 🙂


  2. Sounds gorgeous Janet!!


    1. janetemson says:

      It is a lovely read, a great way to vicariously travel 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kath says:

    This sounds gorgeous – and I’m a sucker for all things Italian, as it is – but it feels as if she really immerses herself in the culture of her new home. And Naples is somewhere I’d love to go but have never been.


    1. janetemson says:

      It’s a lovely, gently paced book. It’s very down to earth and makes a lovely change to read. And it makes you want to travel. I was ready to book my flight to Naples 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kath says:

        I’m going to see if the library have it. Thanks, Janet.


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