Summary and book reviews of Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under The Tuscan Sun

At Home In Italy

By Frances Mayes

Under The Tuscan Sun
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  • Hardcover: Oct 1996,
    280 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 1997,
    255 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

In 1990, our first summer here, I bought an oversized blank book with Florentine paper on the cover and blue leather binding. On the first page I wrote ITALY. The book looked as though it should have immortal poetry in it but I began with lists of wildflowers, lists of projects, new words, sketches of tile in Pompeii. I described rooms, trees, bird calls. I added planting advice, "Plant sunflowers when the moon crosses Libra," although I had no clue myself as to when that might be. I wrote about the people we met and the food we cooked. The book became a chronicle of our first four years here. Today it is stuffed with menus, postcards of paintings, a drawing of a floor plan of an abbey, Italian poems, and diagrams of the garden. Because it is thick, I still have room in it for a few more summers. Now the blue book has become Under the Tuscan Sun, a natural outgrowth of my first pleasures here. Restoring then improving the house, transforming an overgrown jungle into its proper function...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
FOR DISCUSSION
  1. "What are you growing here?" is the first line of Under the Tuscan Sun. In what ways does that question symbolize how the book came about? What does it say about Frances Mayes's life in Italy, and about her life in general?

  2. Mayes writes of the traumatic experience of selling one house and purchasing another on various occasions in the United States. Why is the purchase of her house in Italy so qualitatively different from her other experiences with home ownership?

  3. "The house is a metaphor for the self," Frances Mayes writes. Discuss some examples of this, both in her life and in your own

  4. What makes Mayes's writing style effective? How does her particular voice make her descriptions come alive? What images did ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
USA Today

This beautifully written memoir about taking chances, living in Italy. loving a house and, always, the pleasures of food, would make a perfect gift for a loved one. But it's so delicious, read it first yourself.

The New York Times Book Review

An intense celebration of what [Mayes] calls 'the voluptuousness of Italian life'.

Los Angeles Times

Mayes [has] perfect vision.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Irresistible...a sensuous book for a sensuous countryside.

USA Today

This beautifully written memoir about taking chances, living in Italy. loving a house and, always, the pleasures of food, would make a perfect gift for a loved one. But it's so delicious, read it first yourself.

Booklist

Armchair travel at its most enticing.

Reader Reviews
Ewesfulewe

Very pleasant read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. No, it does not have a plot, and it does not have exciting, sweep you off of your feet type moments. If that is what you are seeking, keep looking. What is does have is an American's view of another country and some...   Read More

Tom orlando

Under the Tuscan Sun
Tedious. For people who have never traveled. The movie is much better but it has nothing to do with the book except the name.

amye

SO BORiNG!
I am not a reader but when it is good I love to read. And Under The Tuscan Sun sucked! Like someone already said it is hardly Italian and way more American. I am half Italian and I know how things go.. and this lady had no plot what so ever!

Carwin


As I read, I was transported to the warm balcony, overlooking the ancient, lusch, Tuscan country side. It did what a great book is supposed to do. Transport you.

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