Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes (All Lady July)

This was one of the first books that I had picked out for All Lady July. I enjoy a good travel book, or just a book set in an interesting foreign location (as I'm sure you've deduced by now) and this was a popular book that I hadn't read seemed like a natural fit!

Frances and her husband Ed are both professors at universities in the San Francisco area. They love to travel and have been to Italy many times. They are vacationing in Tuscany when they start entertaining the book of buying a permanent vacation home there. They want something old and with character and they find a realto who takes them around to all kinds of character-full house. Some are missing roofs, walls, half crumbling and one seems to have a guard snake. They stumble across one that they love but the price is exorbitant so they pass. At least a year passes, and they both keep thinking about the house. They finally decide that they need to own it, so they buy it. The process of just buying a house in Italy (I think for foreigners or Italians) is quite the production. There seems to be at least 10 people involved and there's a lot of unwritten rules to account for and to take into consideration.

They seem to think that all of the major alterations that they have planned will get done with the quickness and ease that those kinds of things usually happen with in America. They do not. Especially because Frances and Ed are only there on breaks, it's not like they are living there year round. There is a cistern that needs to be filled, cracks in the huge rocks of the foundation, a shady contractor, lovely hardworking Poles, an iron gate that has to be restored by hand and so much more.

The books doesn't just tell the story of their adventures in home ownership, it also talks about other villagers, their trips around the rest of Italy, recipes (which we will get to later) and living the sweet life in Italy.

I found a little tidbit in this book that I found really interesting so I had to include it. When Frances and her husband are out wandering around other Tuscan towns she sees plague doors on some of the buildings. These doors were specifically used by people who were stricken by plague, or the only doors used for people to carry victims of plague out of the building. I keep searching around the internet for more information about this and it's failing me. (Even all knowing Wikipedia.) Would you really build a whole door into your house just in case someone got the plague?

Another thing that I found interesting about this book was how polarizing this book was. I was scanning through the goodreads review and it seems like either you LOVED this book or you thought it was the worst thing that you'd ever laid your eyes on.

I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. I like the setting, I like hearing about their town and the other towns around Tuscany that they visit. One thing that really annoyed me was the chapters about recipes. What I thought was weird was that there were 2 whole chapters of basically recipes and they were just put in the middle of the book without really reasoning. Personally I'd have preferred them to be all in one chapter and maybe put in the back of the book. If was going to make a recipe from the book it would be more convenient to flip to the back then having to page through the whole book. And it kind of messed up the continuity of the story.


  1. I really want to read this one. The basic premise is exciting to me, but I also know a couple of my former professors (a married couple) who recently bought a house in France! I suspect they might've gone through some of the same buying pains.

    1. The whole time I was so curious how much everything cost, but they never spill the beans. It sounds like a lot of work, I'm sure it's just as trying in France!


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