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Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can You Feel the Magic?, 5 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life (Hardcover)
There's something about Italy that evokes poetic adjectives in anyone trying to capture its essence in prose. Blush-worthy effusions, which seem obligatory to the country's foreign inhabitants, are symptomatic of the Italian disease, which, once it strikes, is not only virulent but also incurable.

In Ms. Mayes, I detect a fellow chronic sufferer, and as such, I feel for one whose clouds are "flocculent," whose "topiary trees" are "wise," whose hot chocolate is "creamy and unctuous," whose cypresses are "dark-hearted," to give but a few examples. Having absorbed the magic, the author is endeavouring to convey it to her readers, who, unless they themselves have experienced Italy on a long-term basis, will probably not only fail to perceive the enchantment, but will also be immune to it. They may well dismiss such fulsome prose (as heartfelt as it might be) as either overblown or pretentious.

Of course, I'm jealous! I would give anything to be "waking with the splendiferous Tuscan dawns, listening to the bees mining the linden, lying in the grass at night watching the falling stars" (p. 99) instead of waking in the smog-choked Land of Malls, where the bees have vanished and honey is to be found only on the shelves of pricey supermarkets, and the light pollution is so severe that all the stars (except the three bright ones in Orion's belt) seem to have fallen already.

Bottom line: If your lodestar blazes over Italy, buy this book--especially if you are fascinated by lengthy descriptions of the renaissance paintings and frescos of Luca Signorelli (which, if you are unfamiliar with them, you can view on Google Images), and if you enjoy philosophical epigrams such as "Time, the big breadbasket we fill, raid, fill, and empty" (62). If you prefer a story simply told, and are not especially interested in the daily lives of Chiara, Claudio, Roberto and other people whom you do not know; and you do not care to "feel the greeny translucence of a thin slice of fennel" (p. 99), buy a DK Guide to Italy, a plane ticket, fly over, stay for at least a year, and you will come to understand what all the poetic fuss is about.

Reviewed for Vine, Amazon.com: Three-and-a-half stars.
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