A charming epistolary novel that chronicles the love story between Emma and Frederico, former high school sweethearts who meet again thirty years later.
At Dreams & Desires, 50-year-old Emma's quaint bookshop in Milan dedicated to romantic fiction, the passionate bookseller serves coffee and tea to her customers and completes order slips in pen rather than using a computer. One day, she finds a mysterious handwritten note stuck between the pages of a novel. The message is from her high school sweetheart Frederico, who is now a successful architect in New York and whom she hasn't seen in thirty years. When she finally meets Frederico again, Emma is convinced that her life is about to turn into a romance novel – an intercontinental fairy tale between Milan and New York, between two post office boxes and two lovers that are separated by the Atlantic Ocean and half a life. But Frederico is married, and their epistolary romance, punctuated by once-a-year sojourns on the island of Belle Ile, seems to have no future. Paola Calvetti's PO Box Love is an ode to old-fashioned relationships (the ones that last a lifetime), old-fashioned habits (such as writing letters by hand in fountain pen) and old-fashioned notions (such as politeness, and the great lost art of conversation), and will enchant readers of such perennial favorites as 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and Same Time Next Year by Bernard Slade.
Reader Rating: Not rated (0 Ratings)
I wake up early now.
But first, that very first blissful moment between sleep and wakefulness is given over to Alice and the bookshop. The moment comes around 6:00 A.M., 6:15 at the latest, when the herbal potion that has replaced the dream-suppressing pills has done its job and I find myself riveted to the bed with my eyes wide-open and a unique surprise: It is in the empty silence of my room that my best ideas are formed.
And my heart settles down.
There is an annoying aspect to my precocious awakenings: Right after lunch, I slip into a deplorable state of lethargy and my eyelids lower like shutters. If I could, I would fold my arms on the bookshop counter and rest my head there for a nap, even just a brief one. Or I would stretch out on the Persian rug beneath my feet, nose between my paws and tail lying sideways like Mondo, Gabriella's Gordon setter.
Naturally, I can't, and I restrain myself.
To rouse myself from this torpor, I go upstairs with the excuse of having to refill the thermoses, and take refuge in the coffee nook. Oh, nothing special, not an actual café, just two armchairs and some bistro tables and chairs purchased at the Porte de Clignancourt flea market and shipped at an inordinate cost—you'd think they were the treasured relics of a saint.
At exactly ten o'clock, Dreams & Desires opens its doors to the public.
The schedule was not chosen by chance. One rarely feels the urge to skim through the pages of a romance right after breakfast or just before sitting down to business at the office computer. My artisanal salle de thé is not the right place for readers who are insomniacs. Complex moods, such as the euphoria of falling in love, the pain of an inexplicable rejection, regret over a lost opportunity, the languor of the first time, or the urgency of a quickie, cannot be drowned in a latte, despite the reassuring nicety of the porcelain cups and real glass tumblers set out in rows like a battalion of stout soldiers. No paper cups from a vending machine here, but also no croissants, raisin scones, or slices of jam tarts out of a Victorian novel. I don't have a permit to sell solid types of comfort and I have never in my life made a soufflé.
Before opening, I inhale my hour of freedom and apply myself to dusting. A light touch of the wrist, little more than a flick from top to bottom, guides the feather duster as it dances along the spines and dust jackets. With its bamboo handle and swirl of goose down on top, it is a nod of deference to my old nanny. Her name was Maria ("like Callas," she used to say, proud of having a well-established, respectable name), and as she polished the furniture in the small dining room, she would sing popular Sanremo hits like "Grazie dei Fior" and "Vóla Colomba." In the afternoon, I would come home from school and find her and Mama sitting there in the kitchen, chattering away. I would eavesdrop as Maria poured out her wretched life, and in the eyes of a child considerably inclined toward an overactive imagination, Maria seemed to be an untiring model of tolerance in the face of adversity.
As I dust, I sing softly to myself. Pop tunes from the seventies, selections from Lucio Battisti, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. I stay away from operatic arias, too demanding for my frail little voice. Dust motes flutter in the air, causing me to sneeze in allergic syncopation. Still, dusting is a necessary exercise and the feather duster a reliable ally: It comes in close contact with titles and writers, memorizes the covers, steals a peek at the plots from the jacket flaps, finds books that are missing, retrieves those unjustly forgotten. The...
P.O. Box Love
By: Anne Milano Appel, Paola Calvetti