Title: La Quinat Camera – The Fifth Room
Author: Natsume Ono
May Contain Spoilers
An apartment in Italy. In four of the rooms live four single men with singular personalities. Into this peculiar ménage steps an exchange student, the new tenant of the fifth room. Brought together by chance, friends by choice, they pursue their dreams together as the days drift gently by.
Now, this is a treasure! I don’t know why I let this book linger so long in the TBR pile, because it deserved to be read the second I received it. Told through vignettes, La Quinta Camera follow the daily challenges and adventures of the tenants of an Italian apartment house. Massimo, the owner, rents rooms to his best friends, and also hosts foreign exchange students for the local language school. The story starts with Charlotte, who is having a Really Bad Day. She has lost her bag, which had her money and the directions to the room she’ll be staying during her time in Italy. Her first day in Italy isn’t going well! As she meets friendly people willing to give her a hand, she begins to have a Really Good Day. I loved this introduction to the characters, and I felt that I was getting to know them along with Charlotte. By the end of the book, I was sad that our visit to Italy had drawn to a close.
The subsequent chapters build on the friendships and personality quirks of Massimo and his tenants. This is an understated book. There are no battles to the death, no political machinations, hardly any action of any kind. And that is what sets La Quinta Camera apart. This is a completely character-driven book, and it’s those characters that make it compelling. As they go about their daily lives, facing the same challenges we all face, they become living, breathing beings. Will Charlotte be able to make a life for herself in the country she has grown to love? Will Luca get over his crush? Will Cele make it to his own birthday party? Will Massimo be able to find an inner peace as his life, and the lives of his tenants, continues to change and evolve?
I had a hard time putting this book down, and when I reached to last page, what I really wanted were more! Ono’s quirky, whimsical art was perfect for this book. La Quinta Camera is an underrated gem, one that I am grateful I was finally able to enjoy.
Review copy provided by publisher