Sweet Pizza by G.R. Gemin (Nosy Crow)
Joe’s family have owned an Italian cafe in the Bryn Mawr area for generations, but the Italian nature of the operation has been diluted by changes in custom and time. His mother is wearied by the business, while his father seeks other work to keep the family’s finances afloat. Into his world, Sophia Loren-like, steps Joe’s cousin Mimi, fresh from la bella Italia. She ignites him, his friends and habitat, his interest in his family, and suddenly his heritage.
This is a surefooted and gorgeous story. We hurrah for Joe as he shows initiative in representing the cafe, tests his cooking, realises his proud wartime history, discovers opera and his Italian background. In return, Joe appreciates his family, his friends and neighbourhood, similarities, differences, bonds and ambition.
G.R. Gemin doesn’t patronise his reading audience. He does not resort to tricks, such as handy family constructions, to create difficulties; Joe’s location is difficult, families in this area, like many in Britain face hardship, and there are constant undulations in racial and cultural acceptance. I found myself researching the story Joe’s Nonno tells him for the way it unravels fascinated me, as it does Joe.
‘Sweet Pizza’ doesn’t flag. It is funny, true, and at times, painful. The themes of loyalty, trust and tolerance are realised in this well- written, heart warming story. http://bookwagon.co.uk/product/sweet-pizza/
Cowgirl by G.R. Gemin (Nosy Crow)
Gemma’s Grandma Lilly remembers her days as a landgirl on the Thomas farm above the Bryn Mawr estate, where she lives, uneasily, now. Her battles are with petty vandals and racists, rather than with the cows she milked during her war days.
Descendants of those cows bring joy, community and confrontation into the Bryn Mawr estate, thanks to Gemma and Kate, Lilly and Mr Morgan’s granddaughters. Issues that face the Thomas farm, transcend Gemma’s problems and enable her to speak up and show herself truly to her family and so-called friends.
I came to this book after enjoying G.R. Gemin’s second, ‘Sweet Pizza’ also set in this area. ‘Cowgirl’ garnered much attention and many awards upon its debut. Maybe as a former farm girl, I was reluctant to read it initially, however Kate and Gemma’s appearance at the conclusion of ‘Sweet Pizza’ tempted me. As an admirer of that title, it seemed silly to overlook it.
‘Cowgirl’ is rare; it is honest, realistic, contemporary, empathic and political. It treats its readers intelligently, offering ample opportunity to consider the problems raised. I liked Kate and Gemma, who exist simply, yet face real difficulties that are not enlarged into the realms of impossibility by the author. http://bookwagon.co.uk/product/cow-girl/
I think G.R. Gemin is a ‘find’. I shall be watching out for subsequent books. I urge readers to reach for his titles. Bronnie