Although I do plenty of reading during the winter months, like many of you I find more time to read in summer. One of the things I am truly happy about right now is that one of the major libraries in my area has finally opened after a massive refurbishment project. During the past nine months we were left with a meagre selection of books in the temporary building, which I only visited once. No surprise there. However the new library opened a few weeks ago and I was pleased to see that it’s now bigger and better. It’s not really local to me unfortunately; it’s in a different town and I have to drive to get there, but the library in my town frankly doesn’t cut it. Since it’s an effort I get loads of books in one go, just in case (and I use this phrase a lot) I finish a book in one sitting (which happens rarely) and I need another one!
So during my first visit I borrowed nine books, almost all travel-related, specifically about Italy. I have really been obsessed about the country since our trip to Rome. I felt nostalgic and wanted to return. I cannot physically go right now, so I read about it instead. Still good. I started off with Bella Tuscany, Francis Mayes’ sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun. She published it quite a while ago but I thought it would make a fun read. And it did. Even though I have watched Under the Tuscan Sun (the movie), it is a different story than the book, which admittedly I have yet to read. In Bella Tuscany (I just love this title) Mayes introduces new people and events in her and her partner/later husband Ed’s life, as well as revisiting other characters which she writes about in the first book. And, the renovations of Bramasole continue in full swing, with some glitches, as with all things in life.
What made it even more fun is the food, if that’s your kind of thing. What I was not aware of is that apart from being a travel writer, Mayes is also a gourmet cook. I would love to find some time to try her take on the recipes. She doesn’t give loads, which can be a good thing; this is not a cookery book. It’s about life, relationships, gardening, wine-making, food of course, hope and spring, with it’s beautiful Italian produce. There’s also an incident with a snake which is no big whoop – for you – but it still gives me the creeps! (Incidentally there’s a snake incident in the next book I just read. What is it with the Italian countryside and these things??)
I’m no literary expert. I just love to read, but I like the simplicity in this book. I like difficult prose, and have learnt to appreciate it over the years (not when I was at school) but as time goes by I decided that life is too short. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of good literature, and I am in no way promoting trashy novels or mags. What I mean to say is that you don’t necessarily need big words or complex explanations to write well. Bella Tuscany is a good example of this.
The next book I quickly picked up because I quite like the cover is Extra Virgin: amongst the olive groves of Liguria by Annie Hawes. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned that!) Apart the occasional snake story, (alas I think I might have to get used to it), this time Hawes writes about her impulse buy, obviously an old house in Liguria. Specifically near tiny Diano San Pietro. Annie is originally from London, but when she was persuaded by her sister to travel to Northern Italy for some work experience, she was hooked. No time like the present to get herself a little rustico, clean it up, repair it with the help of some inquisitive new neighbours who cannot really understand why two strange women wanted to live in the area, and why they had to walk everywhere! There are the funny moments and the not-so-funny ones, but it’s all good. Great food, how-to and how-not-to construction advice, including some for the new orto, and hard-working people is what you’ll find here. Absolutely beautiful.