Top positive review
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A treat for fans of Frances Mayes, but read her previous books first
on 14 July 2010
It is 20 years since American author Mayes purchased her dilapidated villa Bramasole, 15 years since the publication of her first book "Under the Tuscan Sun" which recounts the purchase of Bramasole. This book, her third memoir, finds Mayes the owner of two Tuscan villas and a historic farmhouse in North Carolina, where she lives in the winter months. She and Ed are now married, and have a young grandson. Reading this review, you may ask, who's Ed? What is Bramasole? If you're wondering this, then I would advise you go back and read "Under the Tuscan Sun" before you read this book. In my opinion, this was Mayes' finest book and I envy anyone who is about to read it for the first time. It is beautifully written, all about Mayes first years living part-time in Tuscany, taking a risk to purchase an old villa with 5 acres of land, the pleasures of living a new life in a foreign country after a painful divorce. "Seasons of an Italian Life" will have much more meaning if you have read this book first.
"Seasons of an Italian Life" is a collection of Mayes' introspections on her Tuscan life, her friends (she has a lot of them), the places she visits. There is a chapter on an unsettling event which causes her to re-evaluate her future in Tuscany. She writes of another rural property she has purchased nearby, and the careful renovations. (Oddly she lives in both of her houses at the same time, flitting between the two). As in her other books, the prose is luscious, her love of Tuscany shining through. However, I only gave 4 stars, as I felt at times the book was a little disjointed, almost like diary entries. It lacked, I felt, the sense of wonderment of her first book where she recounted the struggle of making her first house habitable, figuring out who she was, her foreign self in a different country. Well, after living there on and off for 20 years, I suppose that's to be expected.
Mrs Mayes appears to live a charmed life, and frankly, I'm a little jealous. Her days are filled with meeting friends, sumptuous dinner parties, travel and exploration, she and Ed cooking together with Vivaldi playing in the background, discovering new wines, lovingly decorating her houses, planning a new herbaceous border, trips to Florence or Rome. Does she ever come home tired, plunk a frozen ready-meal in the microwave, then eat it hunched in front of the TV? Does she get in a muddle with her tax returns? Is the old sofa in the living room with the tatty upholstery still there because she hasn't got the time or energy to replace it? Probably not, but I don't resent her good fortunes. On many levels, her lifestyle is attainable because the love and beauty that surrounds her is available to us all -- not paid for with hard cash, but comes for free, if only we have the good sense to appreciate it -- such as our friends, family, and nature's bounty. A great book for a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon... inspirational and heartwarming.