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2.8 out of 5 stars
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2.8 out of 5 stars


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on 12 December 2006
In my opinion, the previous reviews are a little harsh. I loved Mrs Mayes' books "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Bella Tuscany" and couldn't wait to read about her travels further afield. I wasn't disappointed.

Mayes and her husband Ed pack their bags for a series of holidays, including Portugal, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Turkey, Greece and various Italian destinations. What we are reading is her personal travel diary. She often makes references to writers who lived and worked where she visits, and I think that sometimes she chooses her destinations on this basis. This is something I see has been criticized in some Amazon reviews, but Mrs Mayes is a writer and a professor of creative writing, it makes sense she would want to make a sort-of pilgrimage to certain areas that were home to authors she admires. Case in point: Granada, home of the poet Federico Lorca and the Burgundy region of France where the auther Colette was born. Mrs Mayes visits where these writers once lived, and muses on how their writing was shaped by their environment.

If you are familiar with Mayes' books you will know that the "concept of home" is central to her work. Could she call "home," the places that she visits? Some she could. She attempts to sift through the layers of each destination, studying the people, the food, the architecture, the history, trying to reach the essence of "home." I think she successfully does this in Portugal, where she decides that if she had not been to Italy first, her books may have been about the purchase of a Portuguese ruin instead. But of course Italy remains her true love, and there is a whole chapter, written as a letter to a close friend, that is devoted entirely to Italian cuisine. As in "Tuscan Sun," food remains a central theme.

Mayes' has an overwhelming curiosity. She takes with her "walking notebooks," dictaphones, diaries. She photographs everything. She picks up books on local architecture, local cuisine, even books on gargoyles and tiles. She takes cookery lessons. She brings with her books by native authors in order to get a sense of a place. How does she have so much energy while on holiday? She studies people, and makes up little stories about them. It is this curiosity of her surroundings and subsequent observations which makes her books so good.

OK, her pockets are a little deeper than the average tourist's. Certainly deeper than mine. Although costs are rarely mentioned, you know she isn't sleeping in a local youth hostel. But being able to afford up-market accomodation doesn't mean she doesn't connect with the local people, in fact I think she connects more so than the average tourist. I would love to have the time (and money) to travel as she has, and maybe someday I will. Until then, I'll read and re-read Mrs Mayes.
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on 26 March 2015
Too much ostentatious display of her own high cultural level and culinary skills and not enough about the places visited.
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on 31 March 2011
I'm a fan of most of Mayes' writing and I wasn't disappointed by this book - except for one thing. As mentioned by another reviewer, several place names (I noticed the British ones especially) are misspelt. Great writer, shame on the publishers for not getting this edited properly. However, this apart, the book as ever is beautifully written (style-wise) and gives you a real taste of the places visited.
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on 2 July 2014
Frances Maye has such a beautiful writing style and informs without being boring. Fascinating book of places she has visited with an insight into people and places ... Oh and of course food.
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on 23 January 2016
Couldn't read as I couldn't get into the storyline. sorry.
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on 30 May 2006
In a few words--this book is totally self-indulgent, and has really little to do with any of the involved countries, especially England.

This is disgusting to the point when so many places are misspelled--names of English castles, Portuguese places and wines, etc. North becomes South, & the other way around, and I'm not talking about actual geography or history. I even wonder how the copy-editors of the publishing house have let this happen? Do they have any? Are they all called Ignoramus?

There are numerous good books about travel. Just forget about this shameful one.
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on 5 December 2015
enjoyable re<ding.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2006
There are some things so irredeemably foul they shall not be uttered in polite company. The c word, or lurid accounts complete with graphic sound affects of the last time you had salmonella poisoning, or a lewd account of the rape scene in "Irreversible" told with salacious glee. That sort of thing. There is now an addition to that list .....Well as far as I'm concerned. It's "A Year In The World" by Frances Mayes, quite possibly the most offensively hideous thing it has ever been the acute displeasure of my eyes to gaze upon. With its excruciating upper middle class prose, flippant ignorant opinions, and colossal air of self absorbed importance it is far and away the most odious book I have ever read. There were passages in "American Psycho" that made me feel ill but they are as nothing compared to some of the drek that populates the pages of "A Year In The World". That last bout of salmonella suddenly loomed larger in the mind as Mayes astonishingly patronising prose seeped like radioactive mush into my brain.
It's all my own fault. I made the mistake of mentioning to some one I knew that I enjoyed reading travel books. Bless her, she thought she was doing me a favour by lending me this and I'm far too polite to say no thanks. Of course I could have just not read it, and blagged my way through it when she asked what I thought of it, and god I wish I had taken that option but no, I started reading the accursed thing. After the first chapter I was so angry at Mayes persona and opinions and those of her equally repellent husband that if she had been in the vicinity I would have been loading a nail gun and stocking up on drain cleaner ready to pay her a personal visit. Of course Mayes wouldn't have had anything to do with me, as I,m a real person and she doesn't do real people. She swans around the world staying in opulent rented accommodation or swanky hotels which in itself is not a crime but she then luxuriates in the deluded belief that this gives her a connection with the indigenous population. I have more of a connection with most of the locals in the various exotic locations she visits and I haven't even been to most of them. She purports to provide commentary and informative prose on the places she visits but in reality everything comes back to one thing. Her and her loathsome deluded ivory tower of opinionated bilge. She is the sort of person who rather than accepting that the earth orbit's the sun, thinks that the sun orbits them. Mayes is egotistical and self important right down to her repugnant DNA.
I couldn't finish this book. There are enough thing in life annoy every day without adding tripe like this to the list. I sprinkled it with holy water and gave it back to the lender who seemed astonished when I gave it the thumbs down. Even though I was ohh so polite about it when all I really wanted was to spew bile and invective and hit things with sharp heavy objects. Eternity in hell with all its torments and fiendish minions seems as nothing compared to just a few minutes in Frances Mayes abominable world.
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