Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes) – Review

Under the Tuscan sun : [at home in Italy]Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Age: Adult
Genre: Travel Memoir
Publisher: Broadway Books. 1996
ISBN 0767900383
280 pages

3/4ths of the year, Frances Mayes works as a professor for San Francisco State University teaching writing. The rest of the time, she spends in Tuscany with her husband Ed. The two purchased an old dilapidated Bramasole building that they carefully and lovingly renovated over the course of a couple of years.

A few things:

  1. The movie of the same name is loosely based on the book. Actually, the premise that Frances Mayes bought a house and restored it to its medieval vigor is the only part of the book that transferred to the movie.
  2. Lots of foodie talk and food discussions including a lengthy chapter full of Italian and Mediterranean inspired recipes.

This is a travel journal, not really a novel or a formal memoir. Reading reviews of this book on Librarything and Goodreads, I found that most people had a love it or hate it gut reaction to the novel. I actually liked it. I was aware of the differences from the movie going into the book, so that helped me not hate it right off the bat. I love food, so I adored the food chapters and portions of the novel. My only complaint is that Mayes writes in a stream-of-consciousness style. Her thoughts meander, and her endless descriptions of the quiet, ancient towns of Italy were just really repetitive. I couldn’t keep the cities straight in my head, they all became one big blur of olive branches, and sun-soaked buildings with lots of hidden Etruscan tombs. 

I did enjoy the first half of the book more than the second half. The first half deals primarily with the renovation of the Bramasole. Then there is a chapter devoted entirely to recipes. After that, the narrative drifts into its own little world leaving the reader behind scratching their head trying to assess which fork in the road. Go right: finish the book. Go left: abandon at all costs. I decided to go right.

If you loved the movie, be wary of the book, it’s not the movie. If you love books about Italy, dream about one day buying a home in a foreign country and love poetic and overly floral descriptions of simple country living, then this is the book you.

Find this book at your local library 

Book 50 of 2011

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