Ripe for the Picking shows how much life there is left in that perennial theme, the English Abroad. Travel books are popular, but classics such as My Family and Other Animals and A Year in Provence prove that books about English people actually living abroad are just as entertaining.
Annie Hawes is an Englishwoman who has lived in a tumbledown cottage in the Ligurian hills in Italy for about a decade. In Ripe for the Picking she picks up the story of her book Extra Virgin to recount more of her adventures among the locals.
The problem with this genre is that the authors often find it difficult to resist exaggeration. Their adventures abroad are always a bit unbelievable. Can the locals really be that eccentric? Are the difficulties fitting in always so troublesome? Is rural life in Italy or Greece or Spain really so charming? Happily, Annie Hawes avoids most of these pitfalls. Ripe for the Picking is down to earth, easy going and realistic. Hawes portrays the locals as ordinary, but interesting people instead of curious and amusing foreigners, and she writes about her day-to-day adventures in the Italian hills with zest, fresh humour and genuine appreciation for her hosts. When she gets snagged on a cultural difference she is more likely to examine herself than to blame her new culture. Finally, Hawes' book sheds light on the fast-paced, neurotic Anglo-Saxon existence from which she came. She reminds us that a dose of Italy would do us all good. --Dwight Longenecker
During the course of Annie Hawes' new book, local culinary superstar, Ciccio, gradually takes over as Annie's constant companion. How irresistible is a man who first demonstrates his affection and esteem by inviting her into his vineyard to help himmix up cow manure, which she spends the afternoon slapping onto an old pizza oven to improve its insulation, before driving her at terrifying speed to a Herbie Hancock concert? But even with Ciccio's help, the everyday life of Ligurian folk never seems to lose its surreal edge for Annie. How long does she have to stay at Diano San Pietro before it all becomes normal run-of-the-mill stuff and ceases to amaze her? Will she ever manage to go native?