When I first saw Heddi Goodrich’s Lost in the Spanish Quarter on the bottom shelf of my library’s “new books” section, I was instantly drawn to the bright colors of the cover. However, with a little time, I soon realized that it wasn’t simply bright colors, but a scene of the apartment in the Spanish Quarter. Just like with time, I realized that this was not simply a fictionalized reflection of life, but something more complex.
I’ll admit that at first, I wasn’t sure if I was into the story, it follows young Heddi–although the time frame is a little unclear–while she is a university student in Naples and much of the story focuses on her relationship with love interest Pietro.
Now I love love stories, and while it was simply titillating to read about their dates and whatnot, I couldn’t help but find myself slightly annoyed with the characters. Both Heddi and Pietro’s love is somewhat obsessive and dependent, which isn’t something I’m a fan of, even if that might be the underlying point of the book. It seemed to me that while the focus was heavily put upon the two young lovers, perhaps the underlying message is one of finding oneself? Or accepting what comes? Or maybe there isn’t quite a “message,” other than “everything may seem monumental in the moment, but later on, things change”?
Whatever the so-called lesson of the book is, I enjoyed it. I loved the structure: chapters of the past alternating with emails/letters between Pietro and Heddi in the present (it created some dramatic irony which is always a little exciting). I thoroughly enjoyed the description: the parts where “her feet carried her” were always fun for me, it was a moment where I felt like fate was intervening; the characters were vivid too, including Naples itself. Reading about the little cafes and narrow streets reignited my desire to travel and Naples has been on my list.
Perhaps that’s one more reason why I enjoyed this book. While I don’t feel that lack of “home” like Heddi–she’s an American who spends approximately ten years in Italy because of an exchange program, runs away to New Zealand, and takes trips around the world–I definitely love going out and exploring, so her character was somewhat relatable.
My only question is this: How real are the events of the book? In an author’s note, Goodrich apologizes for inaccuracies in the story…because it’s her memory shaping it. I feel confident that the shops and whatnot did exist, but did Pietro?? Is it a pseudonym, or maybe his character is a metaphor for something else?
Regardless, I enjoyed the book and it’s definitely now in my top five at the moment. If you enjoy pseudo-memoir, this book is for you. Or if you even just love super realistic fiction. However, if you’re not a fan of romance, maybe give this a pass.