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***Bringing Tuscany Home

Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy

by Frances Mayes

with Edward Mayes

photographs by Steven Rothfeld

Reviewed February 23, 2005.
Broadway Books, New York, 2004.  226 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN 747.094 MAY).

In this book of stunningly beautiful photography, Frances Mayes shares with the reader what she has learned about home arts:  decorating, gardening, cooking, and choosing wines.  I have to confess that I’m not terribly interested in any of those things, but I was drawn in by the elegant pictures from Tuscany.

This isn’t so much a how-to book as a book of meditations and stories of her own experiences, with tips and recipes that you can use yourself, if you like.  There are lots of photographs to capture the mood, and there’s a section of internet addresses in the back.

I like what she says about finding home in another country:  “What gives that ready identification with a place that’s so much like falling in love?  I already knew I loved the piazzas, the vibrant Italian life, the art, and the painterly landscape.  When I place myself back there, I come again and again to the timelessness of the Tuscan house.  Inside it, I felt fresh rushes of happiness.  I felt as though I were held in a large hand.  The naturalness of stone, the open, arched doors, and the silence I floated in during the nights gave me a new sensation.  As if I were home, really home.  How strange to experience that in a country not your own.  Like a small boat raised and lowered by the tides, I was buoyed and rocked by the rhythms of deep-country life.  Time—to be at home in time is a great gift.  This is the first cornerstone of what a Tuscan home is about—the ease of days, the measure of hours exceeding the day’s requirements, the seasons working their spells, and always the great Mediterranean sun warming your bones.”

Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this book was that I, too, have found home in a European country, albeit a very different and much colder one.  (I’m enjoying watching snow fall as I write this!)

At the beginning of the book, Frances Mayes says, “Bringing Tuscany Home is an invitation.  We document the portable aspects of Tuscany—practical advice and discoveries.  But our intention is, as well, more sublime.  This book is an invitation to a way of being, a guide to the good life, and a toast to the Tuscans, who inspire the world with their knowledge of how to live like gods.  We celebrate the spirit of friendship, the ease of living, and the sense of exuberance that we have found in this small hill town.”

Reviews of other books by Frances Mayes:
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Best American Travel Writing 2002

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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