Sunday, September 28, 2014

Why I'm Not Counting Under the Tuscan Sun

I had high hopes for Frances Mayes book Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy.  It came highly recommended from a life coach who claimed this book was the inspiration for her life coaching business.  I was also planned on counting it as my Italy selection for my travel the world in books reading challenge.

What is Under the Tuscan Sun about?
The book begins with Mayes and her husband purchasing an abandoned villa in Italy after falling in love with the area while on vacation.  At the time, they lived and taught in San Francisco.  This book chronicles their three year journey renovating this home and experiences living there during summer and winter breaks.  

My Thoughts:
Mayes is an incredible food writer (she is one of the writers mentioned in Dianne Jacob's book Will Write for Food that intimidated me so much).  Her descriptions of the food, flora and even the smells of the countryside are so exquisite the reader can easily feel as if they are traveling with her.  After a while though, I became bored with the book and didn’t think I was getting a real sense of Italy or what it was like to live there. Sure Mayes touches on Italy’s history, the siestas, the late dinner hour, her difficulty grasping the language and Italian’s crazy driving habits, but mostly she skips from chapter to chapter sharing recipes, drinking wine and furnishing her home. I kept waiting for that life changing aha moment the life coach spoke of, but for me it never happened.

I did like this quote about why she chose Italy over returning to her roots in the south:
But I kept remembering that any time I’ve stepped in my own footprints again, I haven’t felt renewed. (pg. 19)
Despite all of Mayes descriptive writings I couldn’t quite picture what her home and its renovations looked like – this was probably attributed to the fact I was now skimming over those sections. The Italian characters she wrote about were not memorable and I had difficulty keeping them straight except for the polish workers which were easy to identify because she referred to them as such. By the end of the book I had become annoyed with Mayes, her shopping trips and her renovation overruns.  I began to wonder where she was getting all of her money, not that I was envious; I just could no longer relate and didn't want to.

Bottom Line:
I probably should have skipped this book and watched the movie instead which I’ve heard has a completely different plot. All in all, I can’t recommend this book and am not counting it for my travel the world in book’s Italy selection. I think I can do better.

Have you read this book, if so what were your thoughts?  Do you have a nonfiction book recommendation that takes place in Italy?


  1. I read it and got burnt out from the long descriptions of her shopping trips. I was hoping there would be some large event that brought the novel to a close but it kind of trailed off at the end. I enjoyed the Italy part of Eat Pray Love, but otherwise I have not read any other Italy novels.

  2. Too bad this book was a disappointment :(

  3. Bummer, I was hoping this book would be as good as the movie. Good luck with the next time you visit Italy for our challenge.

  4. I've only seen the movie (I didn't realize it was a book!) but since I didn't particularly care for the movie I think the book is going to be a pass for me as well...

  5. It has been a while since I read it but I did enjoy it. I have seen bits and pieces of the movie. Like Miss Liabilities, the only non fiction Italy book I can think of is the Italy part of Eat Pray Love. Thanks for sharing your review!

  6. This is one of those rare cases when I've seen the movie and haven't read the book. (That's usually against all of my rules, lol) It sounds like I made a good call!

  7. Oh how disappointing. The movie is one of my favorite watch and do nothing mush movies. I have been to Italy, and had the pleasure of taking weeks to travel the back toads, and the movie does it justice. Watch the movie, it is like that.... Especially the countryside!