Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes

Have you ever wanted to simply drop everything and move to Tuscany? Well I have, many times! Reading Under the Tuscan Sun brought all those feelings back to me.

This book is a mixture of memoir, travel guide, recipe book and there’s also a good deal about house renovation, all told with the beautiful backdrop of Bramasole, the impressive house Mayes and her partner have taken on.

It was so easy to slip into the relaxed pace of this book and it’s exactly what I needed  a few months ago, during a particularly busy spell at work. Continue reading

Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray LoveAfter being extremely unimpressed with the film, I avoided reading Eat Pray Love for a number of years (even though friends recommended it). However, researching for my upcoming trip to Indonesia, I kept coming across it in book and travel blogs. Bearing in mind that I started reading with negative feelings, I actually got more out of Eat Pray Love than I had expected.

This memoir leads us along Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to ‘find herself’ after a traumatic marriage break-up. She heads to Rome to explore the idea of indulgence, India to find enlightenment and Bali to learn to love again. Or something like that. Continue reading

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim

cover162045Last June my friend and I took a much anticipated trip to Rome and Florence. We met as au-pairs in Milan about five years ago and try to get back to our favourite country as often as we can. The night I got back from our holiday, I felt the post Italian blues so strongly, that I desperately searched around for films, books, food, anything! that would transport me back to the wonderful country that I love so much. I was so lucky to find The Enchanted April. The dreary, grey and depressing London in the first part of the book expressed perfectly how I felt about being back.

Four women, all strangers, put their money together to escape their unsatisfying London lives for the month of April. They are all very different characters who are unhappy or unsatisfied in some way; excitable Mrs Wilkins, kindhearted Mrs Arbuthnot, grumpy Mrs Fisher and the beautiful Lady Catherine.  Continue reading

I Came, I Saw – Norman Lewis

After reading the excellent Naples ’44, I was eager to read more by Norman Lewis. So when I was exploring my mum’s bookshelves the other day, I was pleased to find a dusty copy of I Came, I Saw, which I quickly saved from a life of being hidden behind many other dusty books. Naples ’44 means a lot to me because it was written about a time and place that was significant for my family. It is well written and honest. I’m glad to say that Lewis hadn’t lost his writing skills when he sat down to create this autobiography. (NOTE: I Came, I Saw is a republication of Jackdaw Cake, published in 1985 – I Came, I Saw has an extra fifty pages about Lewis’ time in South Italy in the 1960s and 1970s). Continue reading

Before the Earthquake – Maria Allen

After reading an interview with the author, I simply had to buy this book. The plot seemed too good to miss out on, and being set in a small village in the the south of Italy, at the turn of the last century, it sounded like my sort of thing. The story is about Concetta, a fifteen year old peasant girl who wakes from a coma after an earthquake, finding herself pregnant and with no memory of how she became that way.

Worried about the scandal it would cause, not to mention ruining the chance of marriage for her two sisters, Concetta is quickly married to a family friend to settle an age old debt. Through the rest of the book, we follow Concetta through her new routines as she tries to get to grips with her new life. Continue reading

Naples ’44 – Norman Lewis

My Neapolitan grandmother (or ‘nonna’ as the Italians would say) married a British officer posted in Naples in 1944. It is quite likely that Norman Lewis, an Intelligence Officer also there at that time, would have had to interview both of my grandparents to judge the suitability of the match. Marriage with Italian civilians was discouraged and lots of officers who applied for permission were turned down and sent away from Naples. So really, my grandparents were lucky.

I have always been interested in my grandmother’s home country and after her death a couple of years ago, I have only ever become more curious about the city she grew up in. After marrying my grandfather, she moved to England and only returned to Naples for holidays a couple of times a year. So when she told stories about Naples, it was always about the ‘old days’ before and during the Second World War. Continue reading