Book review: The Artisan’s Star by Gabriella Contestabile


Book Description:

Elio Barati’s perfumery shop in Florence marks its entrance with a mosaic star. This shop immerses Elio in the artisanal world he loves, but he harbors a regret. As a young man he created a full-fledged perfume of jasmine, iris, and cypress at the renowned Ecole des Parfumeurs in Grasse—a fragrance his idealism and stubbornness boxed away before ever bringing it to light.

A second star now brightens Elio’s life, his daughter Romina, an artist. She has her father’s unrealized talent, a precise and intuitive sense of smell. She’s also inherited more challenging traits of Elio’s: unbridled ambition and an insatiable wonder for the world.

But changes ripple through modern-day Florence. Artisan traditions wane; and when Romina tells her father she has no intention of running the family business Elio fights to hold on to the Florence he cherishes. Confronting the lost opportunities of his youth, Elio is thrust into this journey by five spirited women: his Greek mother, Elena; his mentor Palma; his soul mate, Marina; his astronomer wife, Sofia; and finally his beautiful artist daughter, who like the city of her birth, shows him how tradition and modernity can and must co-exist.

Now he must alter his own path by harnessing the transformative powers of the fine and artisanal arts.

Buy the book:     Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble


Meet the Author:  Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. ‘ The Artisan’s Star’ is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

Connect with Gabriella:  Website  ~  Twitter


One of the lovely quotes from this book:

“His mother’s Femme smelled of plums, flowers and smoky sandalwood. It made him think of the silk and linen dresses that fluttered around her knees on windy days. Her gloves smelled of it, and her shawls. It was his mother’s scent only, and he liked that when she left a room it would trail in the air behind her, making him feel safe.”

As an art student and traveler, I began to read The Artisan’s Star with interest. I love Florence and the book’s description of the city, the artisans and their shops as well as the detailed accounts of the meals transported me back to Italy. I was always hungry as I read this book!I enjoyed reading about the history of perfume-making as well as the processes required to create a memorable perfume.I was at odds with the main character, Elio Barati, however. I could not seem to warm up to his character. The women in his life, however, were strong, cultured and intelligent. There was so much more potential at character development with these women. The sheer volume of characters in this book had me confused more than once, and I would have to go back to the beginning of the book to refresh my memory as to who they were. Often, conversations would go off in tangents, bringing in other subjects or themes, and I couldn’t quite figure out why they were put into the story line. I tended to skip through them. At times it occurred to me that this story was written more as a travelogue.This book would make an interesting read for someone who loves Italy, travel and the history of perfume.


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