I have always been a book worm. I learned to read at a fairly young age, and reading, thus became my favorite pasttime. I love to get book recommendations from others. And every New Year’s I devise a reading plan for the year and try to record my thoughts about each book as I finish it.
One of the last books I read this year was Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Here’s my little synopsis, penned several months ago:
Written as her memoir, it tells the story of her venture into a new life: purchasing an Italian villa with her companion Ed and their adventures in learning the Italian way of life at the same time as renovating, redecorating, and reestablishing the gardens of the centuries’ old stone house.
Though considered non-fiction, it reads like a novel, much in the same way that Peter Mayle’s books do. (He wrote A Year in Provence.) The characters pop off the pages. You are endeared to the Polish laborers and the little old man who leaves flowers every day for the shrine of the Virgin Mary. You want to cheer when the daughter’s new boyfriend Jess proves to be a cool guy, ready to meld into Italian life. You can picture the vegetable woman’s outrage when a tourist questions the cleanliness of her produce.
Ed and Frances are both college professors, so their visits to Tuscany are limited to Christmas and summer vacations. Oh to just pop over to Italia for a few weeks — or a few months! But, as the years unfold, the picture of their villa comes more and more into sprakling view. The book as a whole appealed to three great loves of mine. Well, four.
Food – Ms. Mayes is an experienced food writer, so the book is peppered with wonderful culinary descriptions as well as recipes. To be honest, it made me homesick for the Mediterranean-like climate of my first 30 years: California, prompting me to pine away for farmer’s markets and fresh produce.
Gardening – Ed and Frances reestablish the gardens and orchards on their property: olive trees, grapes, pears, plums, berries, you name it. They have oil pressed from their very own trees and put up jam.
Remodeling – This is a story of their house and how they put it to rights. I can’t believe I would say that I miss drywall dust and open rafters, but there is something exhilarating to remodeling and bringing life and beauty to one’s surroundings.
The Sun – Sunshine is a continuing theme in this story. And, something I miss. ‘Nuf said.
Yes, the book was a good one. It took me down memory lane and reminded me of things I desire to reintroduce into our lives…California would be one of those things. I did yawn when she talked about Etruscan tombs and some of her own Southern memories, things I couldn’t really identify with. But, like I said, the above are what spoke to me. To another reader, those elements might fade in comparison with anthropological discoveries.
What’s amazing to me now is to read what I wrote a few months ago and to see that I now have sunshine and gardening opportunities aplenty. God has been very good to me.
Reading is a great way for MOMs to take a step back from the everyday. To relax. To visit another time and place.
Where have you been recently? Share your latest book in the comments!