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Short Take: One Great Lie

Local author Deb Caletti’s latest book, One Great Lie, just came out last week and is the perfect moody page-turner to read this summer. When Charlotte wins a spot in a creative writing program in Venice, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she get to spend the summer before college learning from her idol, author Luca Bruni, but she’ll also have the chance to investigate Isabella di Angelo, an Venetian ancestor and unknown writer from the Renaissance. Once Charlotte gets to Venice and meets Luca Bruni in person, she finds herself conflicted between her admiration for him as a writer and her discomfort with how he relates to her and other women in the program. At the same time, Charlotte’s research into Isabella reveals a disturbing mystery. Caletti’s prose is lushly descriptive, bringing to life the streets and canals, bookshops and churches of Venice. I was drawn into Charlotte’s initial excitement, as she goes on this adventure and her growing unease with Bruni, as she becomes aware of his true character, while still wanting his attention and approval. One of the things I love best about Caletti is the nuance she brings to her female characters. As the central character, all of Charlotte’s thoughts and feelings, confusion and questions are there for us to see. She’s not perfect. She’s fully human, with doubts and shame, desires and anxieties. She wants to please people and confrontation makes her anxious. In the end this is a book about feminism and misogyny, the love of books and words, who gets to write them and who gets to be heard. It’s about creative women and the reality of the world they live in, then and now. As an added touch, each chapter is headed with a short biography of a Italian female writer from the Renaissance, many of them teenagers themselves.

If you’re doing SAL Book Bingo, this would do nicely for the “Coming of Age” square, or “Recommended by a Local Bookseller”!

— Lori