You can buy almost anything online these days.But is a crumbling Italian farmhouse a step too far?Ruthie Collins certainly thinks so when she arrives amid pouring rain to an olive farm she doesn't know the first thing about running.But for Ruthie, newly single, anywhere has got to be better than her mum's settee. Hasn't it?Life can change with the click of a mouse. But the finer things - friendship, romance, and even the olive harvest - take time to grow. Can Ruthie put the past to rest and find her own piece of the Dolce Vita along the way?
The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas is published by Headline Review, in ebook on 25 March 2015, and paperback on 2 July 2015. The Olive Branch is Jo Thomas' second novel, her first; The Oyster Catcher was published in November 2014.
I was attracted to this novel by the blurb and the cover. I have a soft spot for stories set in Italy, and the cover design on The Olive Branch is really inviting. It's an incredibly easy read, I finished it during a return train trip down to London.
Ruthie has bought a farmhouse in the Italian countryside. She bought it on Ebay - just one click of the mouse and it was hers. She didn't actually seen the property before she signed for it, but after her disastrous relationship with her ex Ed, she is convinced that a totally new start is the answer for her.
It's not always sunny and warm in Italy, and when Ruthie gets her first glimpse of her new home, it's during a rainstorm that feels more like London than Liguaria. Factor in the fact that the house is far bigger than she expected and needs loads of work done, and add the resident goat to the mix, and it's clear from the outset that Ruthie may have bitten off more than she can chew.
Meeting her new neighbours; the Bellanuovo clan is more than a little overwhelming too. Mothers, Aunts, Grandmothers, there are so many of them, and they are so loud, and they had no idea until Ruthie appeared that the family farmhouse had been sold. This is not the greatest of starts!
Jo Thomas writes with warmth and with a touch of humour. Her descriptions of the Italian setting are divine and so so enticing. The characters, especially the Italians are just as are portrayed in film, they are loud and passionate, they love their food and their family, and there is even a splash of Mafia-like activities thrown in for good measure.
Ruthie is something of an enigma. On the one hand she appears to be rash and impetuous, yet at other times she is totally capable, with an insight and wisdom that is unexpected, but welcome.
The Olive Branch is a 'sunshine' read. It's a book that would be best read whilst sipping a glass of wine, with a plate of focaccia so the reader can fully immerse themselves into the feeling of the story. There's the mix of romance with family fued, a whole wealth of information about olive farming, life in a small Italian town, and of course, there is Daphne the goat - star of the show, scene stealer and goat
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4's Woman's Hour and Radio 2's The Steve Wright Show.
In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award.
Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.
Find her on Facebook Follow her on Twitter @jo_thomas01