There have been so many books by expats singing the praises of
their new "homes" abroad --- the unhurried pace of Provence, the
frenetic excitement of Paris, the burgeoning passion of Rome ---
that we are often tempted to turn up our noses at these latter-day
explorers. We roll our eyes at their quaint anecdotes, charming
discoveries, life-altering realizations. We are NOT impressed.
We've seen this all before. In short, we are jaded.
The "been there, done that" mentality is certainly one to eschew
for UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. This is a gem of a book if there ever was
one --- part Money Pit, part every Fellini film you've ever
watched, part Bob Vila and his trusty sidekick Norm, part Marcella
Hazan cookbook and part insider's vacation guide. Here Mayes
explores every nook and cranny of Italian life, custom and
Frances Mayes discovers Tuscany the hard way --- by falling in
love. The object of her affections happens to be an abandoned villa
--- making the loving all the harder. When there is no heat, weeds
are growing out of every crack and corner, and the all-important
well dries out --- how can you continue to love unconditionally?
Even a doting mother might consider jumping ship. Not Mayes, who
even in the face of the worst of it, rolls up her sleeves and keeps
Reading UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN makes you feel like you you have
shared a slice of that devoted life --- toiled in the fields with
the author, been aghast at the work ahead of you and delighted at
its beatific outcome.
Mayes's imagery is beyond engaging --- the vision of the fig and
olive trees shading their noontime repast is splendid. The golden
Tuscan sun beams out from every page. The stars twinkle brighter
than they ever have before. The food is succulent --- each bite an
This book is for lovers of Italy, for lovers of food, for lovers of
life. Opening it will have you smelling the wildflowers and tasting
the blackberries that grow abundantly in the garden. Reading UNDER
THE TUSCAN SUN made me giddy -- made me want to rush out and book a
ticket and buy a villa and toil in its fields in the hot sun with
the breeze cooling my forehead. At every page, I felt tempted to
jot down notes, fold down pages, underline text. Reading this book
made me feel like a privileged insider --- a non-tourist.
Tuscany casts a spell on Mayes and through this beautiful memoir,
she shares the enchantment with each of us. This a trip to the
heart of Italy and finally into our own hearts.
Reviewed by Niloufar Motamed on January 24, 2011
Under the Tuscan Sun