Monday, April 11, 2011

Just finished reading...

...Frances Mayes' second living-in-Italy book, BELLA TUSCANY.

After I went to Tuscany last year, I read Frances Mayes’ charming UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, (review here) which thankfully had nothing whatsoever to do with the limp (and drastically altered) film adaptation. The story, about Frances and her then partner/ now husband Ed buying an old dilapidated house in the village of Cortona and the trials and tribulations of bringing it back to life (and making it suitable to live in), was quite enjoyable but skimmed over a lot of the substance that presumably makes Tuscany the magical, alluring region that it is.

So in anticipation of my return trip to Tuscany next month, I thought I would catch up with Ms. Mayes and see what’s up. Her second book in the living-in-Italy series is BELLA TUSCANY: THE SWEET LIFE IN ITALY, which goes a bit deeper than that "skimming" technique of the last book. It is a nice combination of anecdotes about life in the house they restored (and are still working on), portraits of the people and characters they meet, recipes from the region, travelogue information about areas of Italy, incidental art and European history, and poetic musings about life in Italy/ the difference between life in the United States and life in Italy/ life in general. It is sort of a personal scrap book, much more interesting than a diary.

As I was reading, I was thinking that she was employing the same skimming technique she used in her first book, but when we got to the death of one of the precious old characters who helped them bring back the land and work their garden, I realized we were going a little deeper. And I realized I had grown close to this man without knowing much about him--or perhaps I was projecting and filling in the blanks. Without trying to sound dramatic, Mayes does manage to convey the value and preciousness of things in life. But she does so in a condensed, abbreviated way which often feels superficial... like “skimming.”

I still have a bit of time… I am starting the next one in the series, her newest book, EVERY DAY IN TUSCANY before we fly to Tuscany next month. (Her in-between book, IN TUSCANY, I understand is not really part of the on-going story but rather a stand-alone book of photos and essays about life in Tuscany.)

Recommend? Yes, but read UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN first though to get the flow.

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