The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #28 July / August 2017
Book Look
Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art
by Erik Zidowecki
July / August 2017 | 

Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art
by Melissa Muldoon
Language: English / Italian
Item Rating:

I was thrilled to receive my copy of Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art by Melissa Muldoon, for I had read the description and it reached out to me. I have been to Italy four times and it has captured my heart, staying with me even when I tried to put it behind.

Melissa runs the site Studentessa matta, which itself is like stepping into a part of Italy. She blogs about the language and culture, has links to other resources, has podcasts and videos about Italy and Italian, and much more. Melissa also hosts tours around Italy, the knowledge from those no doubt contributing greatly to her novel.

First of all, the book itself is absolutely beautiful. Melissa is a graphic artist and she made sure that every centimeter of the cover is artistically delightful. When I first received a copy, I had to take a few minutes just to admire the details which were put into what many writers consider to be mere packaging.

The contents are no less captivating and finely crafted. The story is about a young American woman named Sophia (named by her mother after the Italian film star, Sophia Loren) who finds her life upended after the sudden death of both her parents in a tragic accident. Although she continues her art studies in her university, she feels drawn to Italy, like her mother had been. The more she seems to resist, the more the world around her and the characters of its history, speaking to her in her own mind, seem to pull her there.

Eventually, she does find herself attending art school in Firenze, and very quickly feels at home, due largely to her upbringing. Her mother had fallen in love with Italy and had raised Sophia on the stories and language of her own time there. Sophia learns about not only her art but also about the culture of Italy as she lives among the people.

Melissa does a superb job of bringing Italy to life through rich and believable writing. She mixes the language in naturally so you feel the characters are genuine. The history is also told using the technique of Sophia "meeting" various characters from history and playing out a dialog with them, which rarely seems forced.

With the history lessons, you might think this is some fancy tour guide book, but it is not! Although you could experience many of the places of the book if you arrived in Italy yourself, this is most definitely a story, a love story, if you will, between a woman and a country.

Some of the details, like the methods of painting or the sharing houses with the locals, makes me wonder how much of Sophia is based on Melissa's own life experiences. I, myself, have been to Italy a few times and recognized some of the same places and feelings as Sophia encountered, so it definitely connected with me.

At the same time, I could see the story being played out in a film like Roman Holiday (1953), which starred Audrey Hepburn as a princess who sneaks away to experience Italian life among its people for the first time. Although Princess Ann and Sophia are pretty much polar opposites in terms of Italian familiarity (Ann knows only a few words and has no idea of the culture while Sophia speaks the language very well and grew up on memories of the country), both are charmed by the country and it changes them greatly.

I think one of the greatest strengths of the book is how it starts. Sophia doesn't know yet what she truly wants to do with her life, and while it might seem logical to her and us that she goes to Italy, in real life, the path isn't always so straight forward. Even when she finally gets the chance, she is torn between it and a possible future with a young man and New York. That doubting, the looking for the best way to move on, makes Sophia a much more believable character.

I fell in love long ago with Italy, so this book rekindled many memories. Whether you, too, have felt the tug of a Roman holiday or have never been to Italy before, I think you will enjoy this book. And to Melissa: molto grazie!

Book Look - Dreaming Sophia: Because Dreaming is an Art
Writer: Erik Zidowecki

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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