Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nothing New Under the Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes

Published by Broadway

2 Out of 5 Stars

At 66 pages in, I'm throwing in the towel.

Somewhere around the age of 22 or 23, I decided I was done with library books.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate libraries.  I became a reader because of access to wonderful libraries.  But, as an adult, I'm OCD enough not to enjoy the concept of library books.  Wondering how many people read them while on the toilet, encountering books that smelled like ash trays, finding potato chip crumbs wedged between pages 32 and 33, encountering a sticky cover, or, dear God, whose hair is that?!!?--these are all things that would give me a nervous twitch for days.  Add to that a county library that seemed unaware of the existence of authors other than Nicholas Sparks, Norah Roberts, James Patterson, and John Grisham, well, the choice was clear.  I had to buy my own books.

The thing is, I was so punchdrunk giddy with the idea of buying my own books and not being limited to what was on the library shelves that I was pretty damn bad at it in the beginning.  I bought anything and everything that struck my fancy.  Part of this was also because I was willing to see if I was the kind of person who would like these books that I didn't have access to previously.  A book about a woman moving to sun-drenched Italy and finding herself?  Why not? Maybe I'm the kind of person who could like that.  My shelves are still filled with secret shames I acquired in those heady days of biblio-freedom. 

Let's just say that, today, I am not the kind of person who would ever pick this book up. 

Under the Tuscan Sun is not a bad book.  It's just not a me book.  As far as I can tell, here is the basic premise:

1) Frances and Ed search all of Italy for the perfect summer house and have terrible trouble finding the place that's meant for them (talk about rich people problems, eh?)
2)  Frances and Ed buy the house that speaks to them--and apparently the house is saying, "Freeze!  Gimme all your money and no one gets hurt!"  Because this house needs some serious work.
3)  Frances and Ed perpetually need or get permits, contracts, money wires, and estimates for the bajillion and one things that need to be fixed.  Every time the expense is exorbitant, but, before one can feel sorry for them, they scrape together the money needed with seemingly minimal effort.  It's kind of like the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long--only this time I was kind of rooting for the house. 
4)  Frances and Ed make a quaint little discovery on their property!  Isn't Italy wonderful!
5)  Something else goes wrong with the house.  (Stick it to 'em, house!)
6)  Frances cooks something.  It's always Italian.  It always has fresh ingredients.  It is always fabulous.

It reads like a well-written, but repetitive and ultimately uninteresting diary.

Now, again, I did not finish reading the book, but skimmed through it enough to feel fairly assured that nothing new was ever going to happen.  Other reviews reaffirmed this belief, so I do not feel compelled to read further.  Had this been a travel article, I probably would have been intrigued but I just can't do another 240 pages of this.  And so, Under the Tuscan Sun, ciao!  I'm off to sunnier literary climes.

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