October 09, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

I had seen the movie long before I ever read this book and had loved it. So I when I got an opportunity to buy the book, I took it. And I've read it several times and always enjoyed it even if it does have some flaws.

Frances Mayes, after a divorce and a lot of indecision, decides to buy a fixer upper in Tuscany with her boyfriend. The house needs a lot of work, but there's plenty of people to hire and they aren't afraid of a little hard work themselves. This book chronicles that restoration along with the rest of their visits and travels in Italy, the marvelous food that they eat there, and the guests who pop in for a visit from time to time. They harvest the bounty of food and olives that grow on their land and learn to remodel old walls and enjoy Etruscan history.

The book is mostly a self-narrative by Frances and while I don't find her a most compelling character, I'd have to say that this book really isn't so much about the people in it, but rather the land and the food and the house. Sure people are mentioned, but they don't really take a main focus and Frances doesn't really even seem to care if they are there or not half the time. She does describe herself sometimes but even that is an afterthought.

The main focus of the book is food. There are pages and pages of marvelous food descriptions and even a couple large sections of recipes for all kinds of Italian food. There is also a lot of description of the remodel of the house that while interesting, sometimes lasts too long and gets somewhat boring. While I was interested in how they restored the house, I didn't need pages and pages of them cleaning up debris. I could have gotten the idea of the hard work just by a simple sentence or two. But the food more than makes up for it. My mouth waters every time I read this book.

Definitely a more food memoir than travel memoir. I eagerly look forward to reading the next book of her Tuscan journey.

Under the Tuscan Sun
Copyright 1996
280 pages

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