My selection for this month is "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Meyer. I know, I know...the book came out in 1996. A little late for a book review, huh? But I had two reasons for reading it now: 1) I'm pretty sure this is one of the few of the book group books that I've missed in the 17 years I've been with the group and I wanted to catch up (I'm a little obsessive like that) and 2) it was something like 99 cents on Bookbub, so I went for it.
As I probably have mentioned, I don't really want to have any kind of advance knowledge of a book prior to reading it. I like diving into a book blind and letting the words lead me where they may. A general idea of a book is all I need. "It's funny" or "It's about a girl growing up in World War I" is enough for me. Sometimes this works out well, like with "The Name of the Wind", but other times not so much. Example: I didn't realize that "The Time Traveller's Wife" was supposed to be this epic love story. I kept waiting for the time traveller to be a serial killer or something. Needless to say, I didn't have the same reaction to that book as most people.
But I digress. My point of the previous paragraph was to highlight that I had very limited knowledge of this book prior to reading it. I knew that it was about a woman who bought a house in Italy, that it had been made into a movie starring Diane Lane, and that there were recipes in it. That's it. I kind of figured it would be like "Eat, Pray, Love" where the author made a lot of mistakes while renovating the house, but learned something deep and profound about herself in the process. I also assumed that since it was made into a movie, it had to be decent, right? They don't make movies out of bad books, RIGHT?
Yeah - not so much. While beautifully written, this book has absolutely no plot whatsoever. None. Long story short, a rich professor / writer purchases a historic home in Italy with her professor boyfriend and they spend a lot of money fixing it up. They also took a lot of walks and described how beautiful the countryside was. Sure, there were some mishaps with the contractors (aren't there always?), but nothing out of the ordinary. For a book to be of interest for me, it has to actually have a story and some character development. "Under the Tuscan Sun" has neither. It's basically a 300-page travel brochure for the Tuscan countryside. And for that purpose, it does quite well. I really want to go to buy a million-dollar, remote farmhouse in the middle of Italy where my biggest worry is not being able to find the proper mill to press my home-grown olives into olive oil. Yes, that was one of the big dilemmas the author faced. And how about this for a plot line? The author met another rich expat who was downsizing from her mansion and gave the author a bunch of antique furniture. OH, THE HORROR! Seriously - who lives this life?
After I finished the book, I was wondering how in the world this got made into a movie. Turns out - they changed the plot so, you know, it actually had a plot. While I understand that this book was a memoir and that sometimes our lives aren't that exciting, I think this book would have been best served with a little bit of embellishment to maintain the reader's interest. It wouldn't have been an exact memoir, but it would have been a much better read.
Next up? I'm not 100% sure, but it'll be from this decade. Promise. Happy reading!