Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves created and hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out Lisa’s introductory post, here.
Florence in Ecstasy
by Jessie Chaffee
A young American woman arrives in Florence from Boston, knowing no one and speaking little Italian. But Hannah is isolated in a more profound way, estranged from her own identity after a bout with starvation that has left her life and body in ruins. She is determined to recover in Florence, a city saturated with beauty, vitality, and food—as well as a dangerous history of sainthood for women who starved themselves for God.
Hannah joins a local rowing club, where Francesca, a welcoming but predatory Milanese, and Luca, a seemingly steady Florentine with whom she becomes involved, draw her into Florence’s vibrant present: the complex social dynamics at the club, soccer mania, eating, drinking, sex, an insatiable insistence on life. But Hannah is also rapt by the city’s past—the countless representations of beauty, the entrenched conflicts of politics and faith, and the lore of the mystical saints, women whose self-imposed isolation and ecstatic searches for meaning through denial illuminate the seduction of her own struggles.
Both sides pull Hannah in: challenging her, defeating her, lifting her up. And when a figure from her past life in Boston reappears, threatening the delicate balance of her present, Hannah’s feverish personal excavation becomes caught up with the long history of women’s contention with body and spirit, desire and death.
A vivid, visceral debut echoing the novels of Jean Rhys, Elena Ferrante, and Catherine Lacey, Florence in Ecstasy gives us an arresting new vision of a woman’s attempt to find meaning—and find herself—in an unstable world.
I picked this novel up for two reasons: firstly, the cover, and secondly, because Florence is quite possibly my favourite city in the world. I visited Florence almost four years ago and I still think about it regularly, so I’d love the chance to revisit it through this novel.
I haven’t been reaching for a lot of literary or contemporary fiction, though, so this poor book has been somewhat abandoned on my bookshelves. It’s a pretty short novel, though, so I really should give it a try soon!
Which cities do you love reading about?
The Reindeer Readathon continues! I’ve ended up straying from my original TBR rather spectacularly, but I don’t mind as long as I’m still enjoying what I’m reading and I’m still earning points for Team Mistletoe.
I managed to cross another NetGalley book off my TBR over the weekend by finally finishing Tracy Borman’s The King’s Witch! I didn’t hate it, but I’m sorry to say I didn’t love it either. It has red on the cover, though, so it counts towards the Rudolph prompt for the Reindeer Readathon!
I’m currently buddy reading Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January with my lovely friend Natalie @ A Sea Change and I’m really enjoying it so far! I love Harrow’s writing, and her debut novel feels like a love letter to books. Once I’ve read it I can count it towards the Donner prompt, and I’m also hoping to finish Naomi Kritzer’s Fires of the Faithful either today or tomorrow for the Dancer prompt.
Robin LaFevers’ Mortal Heart was on my original TBR for the Prancer prompt, and it’s one I’d really like to read soon. I loved the other two books in the His Fair Assassin trilogy and I want to read Courting Darkness, but I want to finish the original trilogy first. I’ve heard great things about this third book and I think it’ll be a really comforting, easy read!