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Kiss My Jagged Face by Isabetta Andolini Book Review

05.12.23
Kiss My Jagged Face by Isabetta Andolini

A couple of weeks ago I landed in London with a suitcase packed with sandals and spring dresses, ever the glass-half-full optimist. I had envisaged balmy afternoons in pub gardens, river walks with friends, and lazy days spent in the country reading old Sunday supplements. Alas, it wasn’t to be – and no sooner had I landed to a miserable 6-degrees, that I found myself in-front of my parent’s open fire, piping hot cup of tea in one hand, book in the other, dreaming wistfully of balmier climes.

As something of a sucker for escapism, I love nothing better than a good book set against an exotic backdrop – especially one that is brought to life through a rich tapestry of setting, music, and attention to detail, and so as soon as I began Kiss My Jagged Face by Isabetta Andolini, (the sequel to the Italian-American author’s debut, Italian Lesson) I was hooked.

Kiss My Jagged Face Book Review

A world away from the grey and gloomy early-May skies, Kiss My Jagged Face tells the story of mother-daughter duo Francine and Margherita searching for their place in life. The narrative beautifully weaves between two time frames – 1970s London and contemporary Mustique, New York, and Italy; and the author does a wonderful job of depicting each vibrant locale. A great hunk of a book in Kiss My Jagged Face we witness the two women living through different decades and different periods of time, but going through very much the same frustrations as they navigate self-discovery, loss, flawed self-perception, mental illness, and grief. And despite the somewhat serious subject matters, Andolini’s writing has a whimsical and charming tone and she does a great job of creating a cast of characters – flawed though they are – who are loveable, relatable, and real. Add into the mix a chic hotel project, complicated family dynamics and Margherita’s inherent yearning for something untouchable, and you have a perfect tome for losing yourself between the pages of, whatever the weather outside.

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Kiss My Jagged Face Summary

Francine is caught between two worlds: one in which she feels at home but stunted and one in which she feels dominant but distant, all the while balancing her precariously regimented mental health.

A wild child living in 1970s London, manic-depressive Francine must prove to herself and the watchful eyes of her father and psychiatrists that she is capable of more in order to attain the stimulating lifestyle she desires. She finally lands a job in New York and makes the jump only to find out she is pregnant by her rock-and-roll ex-boyfriend back in London. The New York life she idolized is fast and moneyed, but Francine quickly realizes that escape is not necessarily a solution. Torn between American success, motherhood, and the life she left behind, Francine’s independence has never felt so costly.

Decades later, Francine’s daughter Margherita accompanies her architect father to the island of Mustique, where he oversees the development of a new resort while Margherita plans an ambitious project of her own. Unable to mend her fraught relationship with her mother, she adopts her dictum: “don’t let anyone make you feel small.” Eager to embody Francine’s fierce spirit, Margherita heads to Italy’s Ligurian coast to revitalize a dilapidated villa and turn it into a chic, seaside hotel. When the project—and Marghe’s tenacity—begin to splinter, she finds herself retracing Francine’s steps from London to Big Sur, in search of the one person whose opinion and guidance means the most. How does one learn to be close to a loved one from their past while also growing boldly away from them?

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Kiss My Jagged Face, the second work of fiction in the Italian Lessons series, shines a spotlight on self-control, the art of finding home, and explores the yin to courage’s yang: facing the fear that comes with it.

Further reading

Given that much of Kiss My Jagged Face was set in Mustique, I loved reading this Condé Nast feature: Priyanka Chopra Jonas on the Seductive Charms of Her Favorite Caribbean Island.

Isabetta Andolini Author Bio

Isabetta Andolini is an Italian-American who loves a little escapism and is the author of two books, Italian Lessons and Kiss My Jagged Face. She has lived in Europe for many years and spends as much time in Italy as possible.

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