{FOF Book Review} P.O. Box Love

Looking for a love story to cuddle up with this Valentine’s Day?

P.O. Box Love, by Paola Calvetti chronicles the love story between two former high school sweethearts, Frederico and Emma, who meet again in their 50s.

According to publishers, this novel strives to be “an ode to old-fashioned relationships (the ones that last a lifetime), old-fashioned habits (such as writing letters by hand in fountain pen) and old-fashioned notions (such as politeness, and the great lost art of conversation).”

Read on for FOF Alison McManus’ take on the story.

What was the plot of this book?
This is the story of high school sweethearts, Emma and Frederico, who reconnect after 30 or so years. They decide to secretly correspond, by “snail mail,” as Federico is married and living in New York City, while Emma still lives in Milan, and owns a charming bookshop.

What is the genre of this book?
I would consider this book a romance, but not in the cheesy, “bodice-ripping” category.

Did you enjoy it?
I enjoyed this book immensely, as it goes beyond the typical romantic story, and adds some history, both architectural and literary.

Was it a page-turner, or did you have to push through it?
This book is not a page-turner, and I am not insulting the author by saying this. It is a book to be savored. The book was originally written in Italian, and right from the beginning I could tell that it was a translation, as some of the the sentence structures and descriptive words are exceptionally beautiful and flowing. I actually wish I could read it in Italian!

What would you want to ask the author, now that you are done reading?
I would like to ask her how she came up with the idea to include the most recent renovation to the Morgan Library in her story. I actually visited that building for the first time, just two months before I started reading the book, so I especially enjoyed the references and the background history of the project. I have since researched further, and found Ms. Calvetti to be exceptionally accurate!

Would you recommend this book to other FOFs? Did you find yourself telling friends about the book as you were reading it?
My 19-year old daughter has already started reading it, but I find that this is the most perfect book for FOFs. It shows a totally realistic picture of adult love – it’s joys and complications.

What part did you like most? What part did you like least?
I really enjoyed the details of how Emma runs her bookshop, and changes and expands it. Owning a bookshop, such as the one in the book, has always been a dream of mine, and this gave me insight into the actual trials and tribulations of owning and running a small business. I truly enjoyed the entire book – I guess I didn’t like that there were some literary references that I did not know or understand. It made me think. I thought I was very well-read, but this book has challenged me and now I am going to have to read some of the books mentioned within the book!

Is this book similar to any other book you have read? Which?
The synopsis on the book’s back cover compared it to “84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff, and “Same Time, Next Year” by Bernard Slade, both of which were made into delightful movies. I was reminded of a more recent book, (also a recent movie) – “One Day” by David Nicholls. “One Day” takes place over a period of 20 years, and follows the relationship of college friends, Emma (again!) and Dexter, through letters and narrative, just like “P.O. Box Love.”

If you had to classify this book, would you call it a “must read,” a “pass,” or a “skim-it” book?
I consider it a “must read,” especially if you are a serious reader, like me, who enjoys history, travel, architecture and romance. It is an intelligently written book – so it cannot be “skimmed!”

Any other thoughts you would like to share?
This is a perfect book to give as a Valentine’s Day gift to a friend, along with a new mug and some flavorful tea. It is cozy read for days when the weather keeps you inside, and dreaming of faraway places, but I could imagine reading it on the beach too! I loved it!

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