Review Blog

Oct 23 2017

The girl, the dog and the writer in Rome by Katrina Nanestad

cover image

ABC Books, 2017. ISBN 9780733338175
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Family and friendship, Travel, Dogs. When Freja's scientist mother, Clementine has to go to Switzerland for treatment, she leaves her only daughter with an old friend, crime writer, Tobias Appleby. Clementine and Freja have never been separated: when mum goes on her expeditions to the Arctic, Freja goes too, when looking at animals in the wild, Freja is by her side. She has never had to deal with people, content just to be with her mother, but now she must live with someone she does not know. She is distraught. But Tobias turns out to be funny and not a little unlike herself.
When she breaks into tears, she feels that she cannot upset Tobias by telling him she misses her mother and tells him a lie, resulting in the two along with Finnegan the dog, going to Rome, when she spurts out the first thing she can think of after reading Tobias' new crime book, Rome's Reward.
This is a delightful story, full of witticisms, wonderful imagery, delightful characters and superb names. The language will envelope the reader, making them feel they are tucked up by a wood fire, with no need for a mobile phone or stories about testy relationships with other children of the same age or issues! Freja does not want to go to school where she must deal with other children, or be made to write an essay, I am an avocado, as she is gaining quite an education in Rome. She learns to make pasta, drawn a map of Rome, visits all sorts of historic places, and leans some Italian. She has an education, and does not need school.
As their stay in Rome extends, Freja becomes aware that she has made friends without realising it: the old couple downstairs, the cafe owner, the monkey grinder and his monkey and a priest. She learns that making friends is not as hard as she thought, but the question always nagging her is her relationship with Tobias. Several people remark on him being her uncle, and even though he denies this she is desperate for him to be her uncle.
Meanwhile, Tobias spills ink over the white habit of a passing nun, and so a priest chases him, being very unpriestlike in his pursuit and threatening behaviour. A neat mystery ensues, equally as involved as some of Tobias' plots. But as the trio wanders about Rome, readers will ingest much information bout that city and some language as well. I loved it and it leaves the way for a sequel which will thrill the readers.
Fran Knight

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