I picked this one up on a lark. I’m a sucker for girly movies which are played too many times on Basic Cable. It should be obvious that I watch a lot of Diane Lane movies. One of them is Under the Tuscan Sun based on the book by Frances Mayes recounting her experience moving to Italy. When I picked up the book I hoped to discover more of the characters whom I loved so much on the screen: the young lovers, the Polish laborers, and the Fellini-crazed woman in town. This was simply not to be.
All the book and movie have in common are the female lead, Frances, and her home – Bramasole. Bramasole and the Tuscan countryside drive the narrative. To quote another reviewer on Goodreads “Plot: Author summers in Tuscany, buys an old farmhouse, refurbishes it, travels through Italy, and cooks constantly.” This is pretty much it folks. But the story of the multi-year restoration and refurbishment of Bramasole make for an entirely engrossing account of what life can look like when you dare to dream a little bigger than you let yourself dream before. There are other parts of the book, for example traveling to Etruscan graves, which are less captivating. In fact I was as bored reading about her excursions as her husband seemed to be in doing them.
Earlier in the Cannonball I reviewed Rob Lowe’s memoir and said that one of the more interesting facets of that autobiography was his seeming openness to talk about the events which had occurred in his life. There is a similar chapter in Under the Tuscan Sun, which serves almost as an epilogue, in which Frances discusses how the movie went about filming in Tuscany and what it was like to see yourself and your story taken apart and reworked. This was intriguing reading for me.
While this may not be the book you are looking for if you love cheesy Diane Lane movies (which is a shame since the edition I read has a picture of Lane as Frances on the cover) it certainly is a nice slice of life to visit for a change of pace. Since she cooks and cooks it is also a nice treat that many of the winter and summer recipes are included in the book. I only wish that I had remembered to photocopy them before I returned the book to the library!