The Rebirth of Francesca by Yoleen Valai centers around a young girl as she struggles to deal with the death of her only friend, a boy called Gunther. As a result of this loss and the additional burden of a cruel, uncaring mother, Jacqueline, who sizes every chance to verbally abuse her, Francesca has fallen into a deep depression. The story begins as Jacqueline forces Francesca to join her and her boyfriend Massimo on a trip to Italy. Feeling that it would be a betrayal to her friend to take a trip to Italy now that he is gone, Francesca refuses to go and lashes out repeatedly at everyone around her.
While in Florence, Francesca stumbles upon an old book shop where she is given an old diary from the year 1459 that once belonged to a young artist called Rodolfo de Luca. As the story progresses, Francesca learns that she can speak with Rodolfo by writing in the diary and a friendship is quickly formed between them. Despite barriers of time, Francesca soon falls in love with the young man from the past.
The most intriguing piece of this novel was the premise itself. The idea of characters falling in love regardless of a six hundred year time difference is engaging and fun. The character of Rodolfo had an endearing quality to him and I enjoyed reading his introduction to the story. I also felt that the author wrote a perfect ending for her novel, as it left me with a certain feeling of excitement for a possible sequel. Unfortunately, this is where my enjoyment of the novel ended.
A great premise was lost largely in part due to the characters who, at every turn of the novel, were annoying and unrealistic. Their personalities often made little sense and appeared to exist solely to justify Francesca’s actions or act as a convenient plot device. Though I was excited to read the tale of Francesca and her love across time, I found her incredibly hard to sympathize with. The author makes very obvious efforts to convince the reader to feel sorry for Francesca, but fails as she is often selfish and rude to everyone she meets. While I can understand this characterization to some degree, it ultimately made me feel a strong dislike for her.
I was often confused by the relationships between many of the characters, unable to understand why they put up with each other. I saw no redeeming qualities in Jacqueline whatsoever and could not understand why Massimo was dating her in the first place, let alone why he would attempt so determinedly to build a relationship with Francesca who was extremely hostile to him on more than one occasion. Jacqueline was regularly cruel to her daughter for almost no reason at all and never once displayed a single likable characteristic.
The character of Andreas also baffled me, existing as an anti-love interest for the main character. From the moment they met he developed an infatuation for Francesca that served only to allow her to use him for her own gains at every turn. I found this piece of the plot irritating, especially due to the fact that he was occasionally portrayed and referred to as creepy by the main character herself. The only character who felt real to me was Massimo’s niece, Sylvia, who had a very minor role in the whole book.
There were also a number of grammatical errors throughout the novel which I found distracting. The best thing about this book is its cover, which I actually think is really cute. All in all, I consider this book a waste of potential. While I enjoyed the premise, I couldn’t get past how bad the writing was. I have a feeling that, were I not reading this book for review with the OnlineBookClub, this book would have been DNF for me.