2023 book club

february book

Under The Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes

travel literature · memoir · biography | 200-300 pages

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.


next club meeting date: February 24 @ 7:30pm

further reading: "Under the Crushing Weight of the Tuscan Sun" by Jason Wilson (New Yorker)

member reviews


Finished the book? » No
Rating? » 2/10
Book or movie? » Movie

I gave it a 2 because the landscape imagery was nice! It could never get higher than a 2 because the imagery toward anything else was bad and boring. Kayla said it best when she said it was like the recipe pre-amble that you desperately scroll past en route to what you actually want to read. Except there was no light at the end of the blog post for this.


Finished the book? » No
Rating? » 6/10
Book or movie? » Movie


Finished the book? » No
Rating? » 1/10
Book or movie? » Movie

My main problem with this book is that I don't want what Frances Mayes wants. And I wish she would've just told me why she wanted it. Without that context it just feels like gloating. The book operates from a place where the reader's desires are the same as the author's (and obviously this is true for a great deal of people). But if you don't want to move to Tuscany and renovate a dilapidated villa with your partner, and in fact you have very negative feelings about people moving to a new country and throwing money around just for the sake of having property there...this book is not gonna feel good to read. Also sweet Jesus it is so boring.


Finished the book? » Yes
Rating? » 6/10
Book or movie? » Movie

Maybe in my heart I am a white, suburban mom, because I enjoyed this! The book has no real narrative arc, and you will have to read many passages about the tedium of home renovation. Nevertheless, the vibe is very much "wealthy domestic fantasy" and I am all about it. It mirrors my own dream of building a home that is a gathering space. I imagine a long table, laden with food and wine, and friends gathered around, enjoying the fading light of a summer evening.

To write a good memoir, the author needs one of two things: an interesting life, or interesting reflections on their life. In a great memoir, they'll have both. Moving to Italy and renovating an abandoned villa scores you half points on the first count, but Mayes isn't much interested in self-reflection here. So it really comes down to whether you enjoy reading about home renovation and dinner parties (I do).

Average rating » 3.75/10 (The group did not love this one. We liked the movie, though.)


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