Book Review: The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni


The Blurb:

In Elettra’s bakery, food is the way to the heart . . .

The scent of freshly baked biscuits, lemon and aniseed reminds Elettra of her mother’s kitchen. But her mother is in a coma, and the family bakery is failing. Elettra is distraught; she has many unanswered questions about her mother’s childhood – Edda was a secretive woman. The only clue is a family heirloom: a necklace inscribed with the name of an island.

Elettra buys a one-way ticket to that island, just off the coast of Sardinia. Once there, she discovers a community of women, each lost in their own way. They live in a crumbling convent, under threat from the local mayor and his new development plan. It is within the convent’s dark corridors and behind its secret doors that Elettra discovers a connection to her mother’s past. She also falls in love again: with friendship, baking and adventure.

The Little Italian Bakery is a gorgeous international literary sensation about food and love, featuring delicious recipes throughout including aniseed bread and spiced biscuits.

Paperback published by Little Brown Books 19th April 2018

About The Author:

Valentina Cebeni was born in Italy. She is a passionate reader with a background in the classics. Since her teenage years, Valentina has cultivated her love of writing with the discipline of a Tibetan monk, determined to explore the recesses of the human soul through her characters. She currently lives in Rome.


My Thoughts:

This book is like a refreshing shot of limoncello; zesty, fresh and mouthwatering!

Firstly, I must say this book is a foodie’s delight and full of delicious baking & drinks; aniseed bread, sweet focaccia, almond biscuits, lemon jellies, amaretti, rose wine. There are authentic recipes dotted throughout the chapters for most of the treats too! I sometimes get disappointed that books featuring café/bakery/food in the title often lack food goodies in the meat of the story which so often is the main reason I’ve picked the book in the first place!

Another delight is the stunning backdrop of the Italian island Elettra visits. You really can picture the wild beauty of it, feel the searing heat and of course smell the descriptive scents of wild flowers, salt, herbs and sunshine (even on a drab, chilly UK April day). Like all good travel fiction books, this completely emersed me in amongst the area, so I felt I was present within the island, the community and the drama.

Though set in the present day there is a distinctive historical vibe to this story; as it tracks Elettra’s mother’s past, and the background of the commune on the reclusive island, you feel transported back to simpler but arduous times where tradition, trade, and honour are important. Though hard to reconcile with progressive attitudes, the themes of ostracism, misogyny and corruption are still ingrained in some societies and communities, and though antiquated to myself reading this story, still relevant to the area written about. I felt it important to absorb this perspective, not challenge it, as the story is written by an Italian woman and based on her knowledge and experiences of Sardinia (when you read the author’s acknowledgements).

It definitely has a vibe of books like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Chocolat etc for the history & island charm, and the travel & romance of Isabelle Bloom, Jo Thomas & Mandy Baggot books, so if you are a fan of any of these then I definitely think you’ll enjoy The Little Italian Bakery.

There was I felt moments where the story was padded out; for example a scene would be set for a confrontation between characters but then the paragraphs would go off at a tangent along some other memory or flashback that felt disjointed.  There were times that I felt I lost track of the timeline the story was on and how long Elettra had been on the island, and some parts felt unnecessarily long. However, overall I enjoyed this very emotive and lyrical story of generations of women and the bonds they shared.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hayley Camis at Little Brown for sending me a copy that I could review in my own words.

Bee Rating: 3.5 / 5


6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni

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