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Love In Idleness [Hardcover]

Amanda Craig
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 July 2003
When Polly and Theo Noble book the Casa Luna, near Cortona, for their summer holiday they plan a civilised Anglo-American house-party with Theo's brother Daniel, Daniel's girlfriend Ellen, and Polly's old schoolfriend Hemani in an idyllic Tuscan setting. Their children Tania and Robbie will have Hemani's son Bron to play with, and Theo's mother, Betty is expected keep her grandchildren under control by force of a personality that can curdle mayonnaise at a hundred paces. Even Ivo Sponge, the notorious journalist with whom Ellen was once entangled, should do little to spoil their pleasure. But the Casa Luna is a place where strange things happen, and anyone who lives there risks unexpected joys and sorrows. As both children and adults find it increasingly difficult to tell what is fantasy and what is reality, the tiny winged creatures who have persuaded Tania to brew a love potion start to take over ... The result is that of the four couples who have begun the holiday together, all have swapped partners by the end (and one has swapped sex of partner!). This is a subtle and delectable comedy of manners about love, lies and the dangers of a strong imagination ...


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (28 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316724858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316724852
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,470,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

This is a life-affirming read - take it on holiday, but leave the rest of the party at home (Bel Mooney, THE TIMES)

[the] romantic complications, comic set pieces and heart-warming conclusion make this the most accomplished reinvention of Shakespeare's Dream since Peter Brook's influential RSC production in 1970 (Michael Arditti, DAILY MAIL)

The novel works brilliantly as a sharp and funny analysis of modern mores, a magical story of transformation - and only after that a clever literary joke (Suzi Feay, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

An intelligent and satisfying romantic comedy. (WOMAN AND HOME)

Book Description

The Tuscan dream holiday turns into a nightmare, before a romantically satisfying - and surprising - resolution.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
The long wooden shutters of the Casa Luna, bolted against heat and crime, were flung open, and the light of a new day flooded in. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure enchantment 8 Aug 2003
Format:Hardcover
Once again, Amanda Craig has woven a spell over this reader! What a truly delightful novel - lighter than In a Dark Wood, but no less funny, wise and beautifully written. Concerning a group of friends and relations who go away for a fortnight to the Casa Luna, where their bored children create mischief, it explores the difference in love, work and generosity between English and American people. The characters are completely believeable, moving in and out of the serious and the comic, and the style is dazzling. A modern version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that never exaggerates its jokes or its sources, Love in Idleness is the ultimate novel to take on vacation. It will make you fall in love with it, just like the "little western flower" used by Oberon. Betty, the mother-in-law from hell, is a creation of genius.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars first-rate comedy, worthy of PG Wodehouse 24 Dec 2003
Format:Hardcover
I bought this as a Christmas present for my partner, and thought I'd just read a chapter first. I then had to lock myself away to read the rest. I can't see how anyone could dislike such a charming novel (except those envious of Craig's prodigious talent). Yes, the characters are all middle-class Americans and Brits - but aren't they in most fiction? That doesn't make them smug, as someone has claimed - in fact, at several points I wanted to kick Polly, the self-sacrificing wife and mother, in the pants for being so depressed, or did until the real reasons for it were revealed.
As other reviewers have said, the novel is a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, with the rude mechanicals left out (a pity - I was looking forward to some extra comedy there). Apart from switching the sex of all Shakespeare's characters (it is the women who pursue the men, for instance)its real touch of brilliance lies in making the three children, bored silly by holidaying in Tuscany, into the fairies. The clash between the children's world and the adults is beautifully described, but underneath it the novel asks questions about the imagination and its freedom to upset daily life, and about the choices people make when in love that are serious and worth asking. I didn't think British writers wrote novels as satisfying and intelligently witty as this any more.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding romantic comedy 10 Jan 2004
Format:Hardcover
It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a novel as much as I did this one. It takes a simple idea - the holiday from hell, shared with family and friends - and gives it a fresh twist in modelling it on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. As a result, what at first seems to be no more than a light-hearted comedy of manners deepens into an exploration of the hazy territory between love and the imagination. The really inspired part is that the three children in the novel (Bron, Tania and Robbie) play the part of the fairies, causing the adults in their lives to fall in love with each other. The characters are all sharply defined, and the landscape around Cortona vividly evoked. An intelligent, playful and sympathetic novel it should charm many other readers besides this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars completely delicious, unexpected rom-com 20 Aug 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I'm intrigued by the very different readers' reviews this novel has gained. Not having read any of Craig's previous books, I have ot say that this one made me immediately buy the two that remain in print. I think I've just discovered someone very unusual, a literary writer who is also a really good story-teller.
The setting, Tuscany, and the premise, a holiday house-party, both cliched but what Craig does with them is anything but. I suspect her novel should come with a health-warning, like Tibor Fischer's Don't Read This If You're Stupid, because if you don't twig that this is a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, half the pleasure will be lost. Theo and Polly, the hosts, are a version of Theseus and Hippolyta, and two of their children, Tania and Robbie, are really Titania and Puck (Robin Goodfellow), with the son of their friend Hemani, Bron, as Oberon. The four quarrelling lovers are Daniel (Theo's serious academic brother, a Shakespeare scholar), Ivo, (a journalist who I see has appeared in another of Craig's novels), Ellen (a shoe designer, and Hemani (an Asian eye-surgeon). The cast of rude mechanicals are missing, but Bottom isn't, and neither is Hermia's creepy father , tranformed here into Theo and Daniel's creepy mother, Betty.
Craig's prose flickers in and out of each character's mind as she tells her story, which is how this group of affectionate, quarrelsome, selfish and unconsciously comical group of Anglo-Americans finally get off with the right person. The setting is described so vividly, but always related to psychology - "Each morning, the light came through the slats of the shutters in ripples, and as it washed towards the inhabitants of the Casa Luna, it smoothed away memories of the past.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Composed and Magical Escape 31 July 2004
Format:Paperback
A group of American and British people on holiday travel to the idyllic Italian setting of Casa Luna, Cortona for a fortnight and find that their expectations about what will happen are totally reversed. Craig introduces a large cast of characters who we get to know intimately over the course of the novel due to her skill at delicately portraying the psychological state of each one. She shows how Daniel's noble sensibility is at odds with his mother Betty's more ambitious goals for him. The author is able to beautifully conjure her characters sometimes in a single terse, meaningful line such as "Betty did not so much converse as hand down a smaller tablet of stone." Craig also creates the intensely fresh perspective of the young in the three children showing how their magical world melds with the vibrant physical landscape of the Italian countryside. Those that are familiar with Craig's earlier work will recognize Ivo as the mischievous critic who loves to be hated from A Vicious Circle. But even with this superficially unlikeable man, the author's meaningful phrases hint at an underlying insecurity giving his character a lot of depth. Over the course of the holiday the characters find themselves paired with the ones they could never admit to really desiring. All it takes is the madness of summer and a little fairy magic.
This is a thoroughly engaging and funny novel that is an up to date revisioning of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although the tone of the novel maintains a comic air, Craig doesn't shy from tackling difficult social issues such as racism, sexuality and our culture's obsession with beauty. These problems are woven into the characters lives making them a fully-realized, modern and recognizable group of people. Most importantly, this book ponders the question of love in a way that is not trite or sentimental. Rather it shows the maddening confusion of it, the heart-stopping joy it brings and how it pulls us in the most unexpected ways.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Tuscan holiday
I was gripped by this clever and amusing book from the moment I opened it and, like the interesting cast of characters, found myself slowly drawn into the long, drowsy midsummer... Read more
Published 11 months ago by P. Ashley
5.0 out of 5 stars I've had a holiday like this one . . . .
I'm surprised at some of the negative reviews of this wonderful book. I first read it when it was first published; that was just after my Wife and I'd had a holday in Umbria (Todi... Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2011 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magic of Italy
A lovely, moving and sometimes very funny adaptation of the story of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Read more
Published on 7 Jun 2011 by Kate Hopkins
1.0 out of 5 stars Really disappointing
I loved Hearts and Minds by this author so was really looking forward to this book. What a huge disappointment it turned out to be. Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2010 by F. Goble
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious read
I found this book truly awful.
The characters are one dimensional, the plot is unbelievable and awful. the dialogue is dreadful. Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2009 by Ally Bally G
5.0 out of 5 stars Like eating a box of chocolates
I found reading this book a real treat - like eating a box of chocolates - you just have to sink into it and let the story carry you away. Read more
Published on 30 July 2004 by Amy Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely countryside, less appealing characters
This book seems to lie uneasily between chick-lit and travelogue, with the travelogue side winning - it certainly made me want to visit the area described, but the characters... Read more
Published on 21 July 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Ivo Sponge is back!
If you haven't read A Vicious Circle then you probably won't understand the thrill of encountering this irresistibly awful man again. Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2004 by "amy17148"
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacked something!
A beautiful portrayal of the Tuscan countrside.
The story was quite enchanting, but lacked something. Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars enchanting fable
Anyone who has visited the town of Cortona, Italy, will feel it deserves something better than Frances Mayes's saccharine best-seller, Under the Tuscan Sun. Read more
Published on 10 May 2004 by "acarponi"
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