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Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy (1996)

by Frances Mayes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Tuscan Memoirs (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,5421221,295 (3.53)1 / 148
Now in paperback, the #1 "San Francisco Chronicle" bestseller that is an enchanting and lyrical look at the life, the traditions, and the cuisine of Tuscany, in the spirit of Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence." Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people. In "Under the Tuscan Sun, " she brings the lyrical voice of a poet, the eye of a seasoned traveler, and the discerning palate of a cook and food writer to invite readers to explore the pleasures of Italian life and to feast at her table.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, MaxinitaN, paawcik, Jazzybabs, Tip44, ecataldi, BrendanLou, Jackielovesbooks
  1. 00
    Summer's Lease by John Mortimer (SnootyBaronet)
  2. 01
    The Latelife Crisis by Florence Cestac (Anonymous user)
  3. 01
    Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: Under the Tuscan Sun is a dreamier book, gentler and more idealistic than the rough-and-tumble and sometimes drug-soaked Blood, Bones & Butter, but both authors adore Italy and are lavish at showing their love on the pages.

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English (116)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Estonian (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
What a wonderful memoir of the author and her husband buying and renovating an Italian villa in Cortone. The prose is sensuous and so descriptive that I could smell the cooking and tast the olive oil.
Bramasole will remain in my memory a long time. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | May 20, 2020 |
I couldn't get through this book. There was so much description of the scenery of Italy. I guess I'm going to have to watch the movie. ( )
  KamGeb | Dec 22, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I hate to say this, but the movie was far more charming than the book. Having seen the film before reading, I am acknowledge that I'm biased but Mayes' writing just didn't hold my attention the way other armchair nonfiction usually does. If you enjoy memoirs set in Italy or extreme personal growth, try it out, but if you saw the movie and adored it, skip trying to read this and maybe move on to one of her later books. ( )
  StefanieGeeks | Aug 3, 2019 |
I do not even know where to start with this book.

I read it because I loved the movie. I mean really LOVED the movie, and I have seen it numerous times. I love the story of Frances and her recovery from divorce, that amazing resilience a person can find in the face of such a devastating life change. I love the friends and family and the characters that surround her. I love her house. I wanted to read more about it.

But Disney got their hands on this book, and they did what Disney does best - made it marketable. So while the movie is something that I love, the book just irritates the hell out of me. And maybe it would have been different had I read the book first, but that is just not the case.

So here I am, not really feeling this book. It is not a novel - it a memoir of the author's purchase and restoration of a house in Tuscany. There is no plot. Just her words about all the different trials and tribulations with each project, all the various food she cooked and ate, and various little self-realizations along the way.

So. Many. Words.

There is this scene in the movie where Diane Lane's character writes a postcard for a young man, and she uses some flowery language about how the grapes "taste purple". The young man is annoyed because it completely does not sound like him. It doesn't really sound like anyone unless you're a poet or an English professor.

Oh, wait. The author is both of those. So every description goes on for pages. And at first, it's all very charming. Then after awhile, it's mildly annoying. I mean, yay for restorations and gardening, but I really do not need pages upon pages of it. There are also two sections that include recipes (summer and winter). By the end, I really just want her to shut up.

Now all of this would be very interesting (like the people around her, the history of the area, that kind of thing) if the book didn't start to feel like this overly reverential journey of self. It feels as if she is yearning and searching through the entire book, but you don't really get to know anything about her life until right at the end.

I guess I am just not the type of person who wants to delve into another woman's psyche while she finds her bliss. Or something. Don't quote me on that.

( )
  ladypembroke | May 17, 2019 |
I read this first years ago, liked it, and so held on to it. When going through books trying to figure out what to keep and what to ditch this was a pretty early choice into the giveaway box. But, then I decided to read a couple pages and almost fell in love again.

This continued for almost the first hundred pages, and then Mayes' ornate prose began to irritate me, her little pretty metaphors and digressions began to consume the book until there was almost nothing left.

The book was best when it concerned the couple finding their dream home and fixing it up - I could ignore their obvious affluence and distracting San Francisco organic pretensions.

But the house was fixed all too soon and we were left with the town and surrounding countryside to describe. I can hear about espresso downing and bricked up plague doors only so many times.

Maybe it's not Mayes' fault. I think my irritation this time only has to do with her alarming writing similarity to Diane Ackerman, urgh. I think I'm done here.

The fluffy Diane Lane movie was really an improvement. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
It was with considerable baggage that I recently revisited "Under the Tuscan Sun" this year, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, and discovered that my opinion of the book has grown ever so slightly more generous with age. This is not to say that I found the book free of flaws the second time around. For one, it contains virtually no narrative conflicts; each incident that could potentially cause tension gets resolved within paragraphs or, at most, a few pages. Will the villa’s previous owner sell to Frances and her partner, Ed? Yes, he will. Will a big pile of money needed to make the deal arrive by wire? Several paragraphs later, it does. Frances stubs her toe, to much consternation, and a few lines later Ed applies a Band-Aid...

However I feel about Mayes and her privilege, and the marketing phenomenon that has flourished in her wake, there’s no denying that her prose brings Bramasole to life. When the workers begin to open up a wall between her living room and the kitchen, removing large stones, Mayes writes, “It’s the imagination that carries us through the stress of these projects. Soon we will be happy!” During a Christmas Day snowfall, while her daughter and a friend are visiting, she asks, “Is this much happiness allowed?”

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mayes, Francesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Quijada, EncarnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reerink, DonsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Ann Cornelisen
First words
"What are you growing here?" The upholsterer lugs an armchair up the walkway to the house but his quick eyes are on the land. [Preface]
I am about to buy a house in a foreign country.
Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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