Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes

First it must be said: There is a movie with this same name, however, the only similarity between the movie and the book is
 that there was a woman who had a house in Tuscany. Other than that, if you've seen the movie, you still have no idea what the book is like. (I really loved the movie, too.)

Second, a disclaimer: I am absolutely enamoured with Italy, Rome and Tuscany in particular, so this may influence my review of Mayes' book.

Frances Mayes is a real woman who, with her husband, sought out and bought a wonderful near-ruin in Tuscany and restored it and the surrounding farmland to glory. Mayes seems exactly like "my kind" of woman--she loves travel, she's not afraid to work hard or take on seemingly insurmountable challenges; she relishes the restoration of the house, plans gardens and executes them, loves to cook and learn about Italian culture and traditions. Her delightful book brings us right into her life in Tuscany and shares the best of what she's learned.

One of the unusual features of the book is that interspersed regularly in the narrative she shares many recipes for preparing the abundant fresh foods grown regionally and available in the small market in the nearby town. A few times these recipes and instructions were a bit of an interruption, but mostly they added to the sense of everyday life the book gives the reader.

Her story unfolds at a graceful pace, unhurriedly and in a tempo I'm certain must be that of life in small town Tuscany. I have been told by one person that he couldn't read the book because it was "too slow," but I loved the pace. I actually found myself relishing every word and wishing it would not end. But I like reading about food, home, gardens, and Italian life; for some readers this would simply not be their subject matter, but for those who imagine themselves someday living abroad, this book paints an idyllic life to be savored.
My Recommendation: Highly Recommended.

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