Friday, September 01, 2006

Tied to the Tracks by Sara Donati

Seemingly out of the blue, tiny documentary company Tied to the Tracks is handed the opportunity of a lifetime: a personal invitation from reclusive literary legend Miss Zula Bragg to make a film about her life. For Angie Mangiamele and her award-winning team, it's almost too good too be true - and impossible to pass up.

But for Angie, the prospect of visiting Miss Zula's home town in the Deep South is a mixed blessing because it means coming face to face with the man she once thought was the love of her life. Now head of Ogilvie University's literature department, John Grant is engaged to local beauty Caroline Rose. In a small town rich in tradition and rife with gossip, the sparks that fly when the two former lovers meet again can't escape the attention of the closeknit community, mind Caroline's four sisters and the overbearing Aunt Patty-Cake, who aren't about to let any strangers from the city interfere with the impending nuptials.

Beautifully drawn with a vibrant cast of characters more than ready for their close-ups, TIED TO THE TRACKS a sharp, witty and grown up love story.

I have been reading Sara Donati for a couple of years now having initially been introduced to her Into the Wilderness series after reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I can't wait to read the next book in the ITW series which is due out in October. When I heard that she was writing a contemporary book I was quite keen to see how it was. She has written another contemporary novel called Homestead which was published under the name of Rosina Lippi but I have never been able to find that book here.

The novel starts when a small, independent film company unexpectedly gets a contract to film a documentary about a reclusive literary treasure by the name of Miss Zula Bragg. The documentary was requested because it is coming up to the 150th anniversary of the founding of Ogilvie University and the 50th anniversary of Miss Zula's graduation from there. It seems that Miss Zula has specifically requested Tied to the Tracks be the company that does the documentary. Whilst the idea of work is definitely attractive, for one of the three stakeholders in the company there are complications because it means spending the summer in Ogilvie, Georgia. For Angie Mangiamele, this means that she will have to share a town with John Grant - aka the one that got away. John has recently returned to Ogilvie with his fiancee, Caroline Rose, darling youngest daughter of another of the town's most influential families.

As soon as Angie and John meet again, it is clear that there is still chemistry between them, and the author does a fantastic job at building the tension between the two characters as they grapple with their emotions from the past, but also with the new ones that are building between them. As their lives are changed irrevocably, the opening quote of the book becomes increasingly relevant - Happiness is the china shop: love is the bull.

John is forced to look at his current relationship and realise that things probably aren't as they should be for a couple who is about to get married. It is, however, difficult to sort these issues out when the prospective bride does a disappearing trick just days before the wedding - much to the consternation of her posse of older sisters.

At least superficially, this book is about what happens when the one that got away comes back into your life, but in reality it is also about the complex nature of relationships in families, in small towns, and about the secrets that we keep, even from those that love us most.

Other themes that are touched on are the significant changes that have happened in society, particularly in relation to racism and the acceptance (or otherwise) of homosexual relationships.

Most of the other major characters are well drawn and distinct, and there is a cast of the quirky and not so quirky characters that abound in literature that features a small town - but not to the point of becoming completely cliched.

Whilst it is not all that unusual for books to have different titles for different markets, somewhat unusually this book is published under a different author name here in Australia. In the rest of the world, it was released under the author name of Rosina Lippi, but here they decided that they wanted to cash in on the already established name of Sara Donati instead of trying to introduce a new name into the market.

Rating 4.5/5


  1. I am a huge Sara Donati fan--can't wait until October for Queen of Swords. I read this one too a little while ago and liked it a lot. But it is very different from the ItW books, isn't it? So I can understand why they decided to publish under a different name here in the US.

    Maybe Homestead wasn't published in Australia, so they stuck with Donati for TTTT?

  2. You were so lucky to get an advance copy!

    I'll still keep my eyes open for Homestead. One day I might stumble across it!

  3. I only have read Outlander series by Diana Gabladon (love her work by the way) but I have never read Sara Donati. I heard good things about her thought....great review Marg!

  4. I looked for this today when I stopped at the bookstore and it wasn't in the store. The US release date is July 3rd I think. I've read Sara Donati before and I thought this was under her Rosina Lippi name. I'll be sure to check both here to make sure. Your review just whet my appetite more for this one.

  5. Rosie, in the US it was released in the name of Rosina Lippi. Here in Australia it was released under the name of Sara Donati.



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