Title: Swallows and Ice Cream
Author: Robert Fowler
Genre: Short Story, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Rating: 1 Star
Steve, a nineteen-year-old English boy, lives and works in one of the small Tuscan villages that surround Florence. He is a lost soul, haunted by the memory of his beloved Katherine, whom he has left behind in England. He lives in a cluttered single room high up in Fausto Pacelli’s three-story house; the exorbitant rent as always in arrears.
Steve works for Tino Fabiano, owner of an ice cream shop. His handsome good looks are good for business, women of all ages seem attracted to the boy. Steve is befriended by Luca, who runs his uncle’s café, and is responsible for most of the food Steve eats, and Maria; a stunning beauty who has attached herself to the English boy.
Steve is a boy lost in confusion, riddled with guilt that he cannot undo. Katherine comes to him more and more in nightmares; unable to escape her, she now haunts his days as well as his nights. Everything is catching up with Steve; sooner or later, he will have to confront his bitter past.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I put off this review for a long time. Swallows and Ice Cream was one of those stories that I occasionally get handed directly from the author or publisher, where on paper, it sounds good. As I started reading, however, I quickly lost interest. I tried. I really did. I read, I set it aside, I’d go back and read some more, I’d set it aside again… but eventually I had to admit after months of waffling over a review that sometimes you just have to set a book down. It’s not an egregiously long book either, only 81 pages… a short story, but I couldn’t finish it.
Now, I didn’t get far into the story—not even half way—so attempting to discuss the plot or the characters is nearly impossible. I didn’t get far enough in to dissect those aspects of the book. What I can tell you is that I got the impression that the story itself wasn’t bad, just a bit depressing. The book opens with Steve, a teen who spends the first few pages of the book lamenting over a lost love and trying to avoid a bottle of brandy. He hasn’t paid his rent in awhile, and my general impression of him was that he was a pretty sad sop. The opening of the story was slow and depressing, and to be honest, didn’t drag me in. Had that been the only problem, I probably would have kept reading.
Unfortunately, the narrative style wasn’t to my taste, and the editing was sadly lacking. In the first five pages of the story alone I spotted numerous punctuation errors and awkwardly worded sentences. The sentence structure was repetitive and clipped—stiff. It was by far not the worst editing I’ve seen in an independently published book, but it should have been cleaned up by an editor before publishing. Between the poor editing, the sloppy sentence structure, and the depressing, slow beginning… I just couldn’t bring myself to read any more.
Do I think others would like it? Probably. I’m not huge on the short story genre as a whole, and I’m not a fan of mopey depressing stories. Understand that I’m at heart, a romance reader (which is what I was told this story was). I work to help copyedit stories like this for authors… so getting past technical errors can sometimes be hard. I think someone with a mind less trained to pick up errors, and someone who enjoys more literary work may appreciate this story more than I did. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t the right audience for it.