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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes

Reviewed April 24, 2002.
Broadway Books, 1997.  341 pages.

Naturally, this book made the perfect light reading material for my trip to Italy.  We were in Tuscany in the middle of the week.  It was fun to look out the window on the Tuscan hills and see what she described.

As my readers know by now, I have an affinity for English-Speaker-Moves-To-Foreign-Country books, and this was a good one.  Frances Mayes had gone through a painful divorce, and she and her new husband decided to buy a home in Tuscany.  They are both University professors, so they spend summers there, still with most of their lives in America.

Besides the interesting story of how they fixed up an old Tuscan villa, I like her musings on what makes a place home.  She speculates about topics as varied as why people travel and how America is different from Italy.

I’ve often wondered how I can feel so at home in Germany, when I still don’t speak the language very well.  This week, it finally dawned on me that I don’t expect to speak the language of my neighborhood.  When I was in third grade, my family moved to Wilmington, California.  Within a mile radius of our home there, I would guess that there are fewer native English speakers than there are within a mile radius of my home here in Germany (what with all the American military).  I speak even less Spanish than I do German, and at least here my skin color is the same as my neighbors.  To be honest, I still feel a bit strange when I’m in a large group of people who all look like me.

You don’t have to read Under the Tuscan Sun in Italy to enjoy it.  Frances Mayes’ writing will make you feel the warmth of hot Italian summers no matter where you are.

Reviews of other books by Frances Mayes:
Bringing Tuscany Home
The Best American Travel Writing 2002

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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