Review: Something Great and Beautiful – Enrico Pellegrini


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There’s something romantic about summers in Italy and forays into the unknown of India that just doesn’t exist on Wall Street. When Chloé Verdi and Rosso Fiorentino, the protagonists of Enrico Pellegrini’s Something Great and Beautiful (Other Press), meet in India, the encounter is something exotic and tinged with the surreal. Juxtapose that with Chloé’s testimony in Rosso’s trial for securities fraud and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an engrossing page-turner that’s too delightful to put down.

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Brought to India by the opportunity to work with an esteemed writer known as the Maestro, Chloé and Rosso’s first meeting leaves them both with things to ponder. At 21 years old, Chloé has achieved a journalistic coup d’état by gaining the notoriously media-shy Maestro’s final interview, and Rosso has been left with the simple instruction to “do something great and beautiful”.

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As the years pass, the pair meeting again in Portofino, Italy, where Rosso decides to take focaccia to the streets of New York, which happens to be where Chloé has become a lawyer. An overnight success, Focaccia House is listed on the Stock Exchange following the largest IPO in US history and it seems that Rosso has succeeded in the Maestro’s mission.

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From the very first chapter, Chloé makes clear that she is in love with Rosso, and the book is even subtitled “A Novel of Love, Wall Street and Focaccia” but on the surface, the love story is far from the central talking point of the plot. Rosso’s love life is chaotic, and his ongoing friendship with a man from whom he stole not one, but two girlfriends is somewhat unlikely. For a woman in love, Chloé appears to spend more time in relationships with other men than in even thinking of Rosso, and they pass each other like ships in the night, each seeking their own form of success. A picture of love in the early 21st Century, before swiping right and Netflix and chill took the last vestiges of romance from real life, perhaps.

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Although the novel is centred around the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis, and explores the complexities of responsibility for the billions of dollars lost in the crash and ensuing recession, at its heart, Something Great and Beautiful is a human story that demonstrates the importance of meaningful relationships and the fragility of financial success. These lessons appear to have been learned by Rosso’s financial adviser, who lives in the tunnels under the city streets, and the baker, Don Otto, whose comfort in making a living with his hands, making focaccia in a basement in Portofino, is in sharp contrast with the pandemonium of Wall Street. Like much of the story, these characters present a satirical take on the excessive wealth that appears to be the modern American dream, but they’re also the kind of people you’d want to have in your life, no matter how much you earned.

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An easy read, full of entertaining characters and enough depth to let you reflect on modern society’s foibles if you’re so inclined, Something Great and Beautiful can be enjoyed in an afternoon. And don’t be put off by the talk of Wall Street – it’s an accessible story, even if you don’t know your Ponzi schemes from your corporate tax evasion.

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Thanks to Other Press for providing an advance copy of Something Great and Beautiful: A novel of love, Wall Street and focaccia for review. It is now publicly available for purchase.

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