"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun
Author:  Frances Mayes
Published:  1996
Publisher:  Broadway Books, a Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Pages:  292
Genre:  Travel Memoir
Source:  I own this book


(from the back cover)  Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside.  In sensuous and evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy.  An accomplished cook and food writer, Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book.  Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.  A celebration of the extraordinary quality of life in Tuscany, Under the Tuscan Sun is a feast for all the senses.

My Thoughts:

Under the Tuscan Sun is not a book to be greedily read, speeding through to be done.  It is like a fine dessert or a hot drink on a cold day. The heated mug warming your hands and the steam your face, as you hold it near and the drink, enjoyed in small slow sips, heating your insides slowly. That is Under the Tuscan Sun.  One must linger over the poetic descriptive flow, the picturesque countryside coming to life on each page.  Take it slow and immerse yourself in the words, the country, the way of life.  Under the Tuscan Sun is akin to a holiday abroad wherein you are at liberty to meander the streets, visit the shops, taste the delicacies therein and watch the people.  The countryside of rolling hills, vineyards and chestnut forests fill your mind. You are there with Frances as she explores the vast beauty of Italy.  

Not only is this a travel memoir, Frances shares the joys of acquiring Bramasole, her home in Italy, and, with her partner Ed, taking on the renovation of all renovations, gutting rooms, taking down walls, laying brick floors, revamping the landscape, finding scorpions.  There are conundrums, the revealed frescoes, the pain and the joy of restoring and developing Bramasole to a traditional Italian villa -- the house and land it takes two oxen two days to plow.  Amidst it all, Frances and Ed tour the countryside, exploring the towns and shops and bringing home new exciting foods to prepare.  Frances, after all, is a gourmet cook and it seems that Ed is no slouch either.  Shared within Under the Tuscan Sun are summer and winter recipes, favourites of hers, some traditional and some her own variations on Italian foods.  It is all mouthwatering goodness!!

I encourage you, when you are in the mood for a languid, feel-good book, to pick up a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, sit back and enjoy the visit to Cortona through the senses and words of a gifted writer.  You'll relish the experience!

Rated 5.5/5

Also by Frances Mayes, continuing her story, is Bella Tuscany: the Sweet Life in Italy (2000) and Everyday in Tuscany:  Seasons of an Italian Life (2010).  See Frances' website for more:  http://www.francesmayesbooks.com

Favourite quotes from Under the Tuscan Sun:

“Life offers you a thousand chances... all you have to do is take one.”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

“Splendid to arrive alone in a foreign country and feel the assault of difference. Here they are all along, busy with living; they don't talk or look like me. The rhythm of their day is entirely different; I am foreign. ”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

“Like fanning through a deck of cards, my mind flashes on the thousand chances, trivial to profound, that converged to re-create this place. Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different. Where did the expression "a place in the sun" first come from? My rational thought process cling always to the idea of free will, random event; my blood, however, streams easily along a current of fate. ”
― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

In 2003 a film version of Under the Tuscan Sun was released starring Diane Lane as Frances Mayes.  

Under the Tuscan Sun, the film, is the reason for my reading the book of the same title.  Though the circumstances and story are altered (ie. wherein Frances acquires Bramasole), this movie is worth watching.... repeatedly. It is one of my favourites!

Frances, recently divorced, travels to Tuscany as a gift from one of her best friends.  She is at a cross-roads, heart-broken, and at a loss.  The trip to Tuscany sets in place a life-changing series of events which help Frances realize that it is never too late to pursue dreams, to find "home", and to love again.  Set in the beautiful countryside of Cortona, Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun beckons the viewer, much as the book did, to come, to languish, to immerse yourself in the culture, to eat a grape that "even tastes like purple" while the bells toll.  A chick-flick with substance, humour, and delectable food and environment; won't you take the journey?


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  5. When I put down Under the Tuscan Sun I was sad it was over... I started becoming addicted to these sorts of books and new I needed more. When I came across this post with people who love this book too, I just had to tell all you other enthusiasts about this other book I just picked up. I just bought this book yesterday, "Following My TUG .. All The Way To Costa Rica!" and I’m almost finished because I can’t put it down!! I don’t read as often as some, maybe one book over two or three months, but something about this authors writing style just drew me in. It’s a completely true story of this woman who picked up her whole suburbanized life and moved to the mountains of Costa Rica with her husband. It’s REALLY interesting, and sort of a dream of mine.. to just travel and change my life just like that, like Under the Tuscan Sun and Following My TUG. She’s SO inspiring, and hilarious. So, if you’re interested in a good read/true story of travel and adventure that’s relatable and inspiring I would highly recommend this book! Plus its cheap, you can grab a copy off kobo books for like 9 bucks, here’s the link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/following-my-tug

    1. Dear anonymous, thanks so much for taking the time to share your love for Under the Tuscan Sun and for the recommendation for Following My TUG. I definitely will look it up because I truly loved Under the Tuscan Sun and am always looking for more that have that same effect for me.

    2. Shweeet!! Let me know what you think :D


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