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Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

September 17, 2010

After getting a divorce, Frances Mayes found herself with a full time teaching position, a grown daughter, a small nest egg and a longing to discover life in another culture.  She and Ed, her new partner, decided to take the plunge and buy a house in a rural area of Italy.  The house needed a lot of work and the renovation process didn’t always go smoothly.  That never dampened the enthusiasm of Frances or Ed – they share a love of Italy and their summer home.

Frances Mayes recalls their experience in purchasing and renovating their Italian home, Bramasole,  in the beautifully written book, Under the Tuscan Sun.  She equates the renovation process to childbirth – painful to go through, but quickly forgotten.  Her love of the country is evident and her passion made me long to take such an adventure.  Mayes makes it all sound so romantic and endearing and her positive attitude is a joy – somehow I know I wouldn’t face the challenges of renovation in another country with quite the same delight.

I listened to the audio version of Under the Tuscan Sun, which is read by the author.  I did enjoy it, but don’t think she was the best choice to read the book – I found her reading to be flat and monotonous and did have to replay a track or two when my mind wandered.  (By the way, Frances and Ed just celebrated 20 years of owning Bramasole.) Even so, I longed to go to Italy when I was through listening to the book.  I’d like to see the movie version now, but from this trailer, I can see that it deviates from the book quite a bit:

50 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 5:43 am

    I always wanted to read this book, and now your review has reminded me of it.


  2. September 17, 2010 5:52 am

    I loved the book, loved the movie. It made me think of how easy it was for Frances to just up and go! A monumental move.

  3. drbethnolan permalink
    September 17, 2010 6:06 am

    I read this book when it first came out as I had just returned from a month in Italy. Personally I found the narrator tiresome; however, I did love the images of Italy that it provoked. I saw the movie which was quite different from the book in my opinion. The cinematography was beautiful.
    -Beth 🙂

  4. September 17, 2010 6:13 am

    I did enjoy the movie and the book sounds intriguing.

  5. September 17, 2010 6:42 am

    I have this movie permanently loaded on my iPod, just in case I need a little pick-me-up. In fact, the whole movie is really a big juicy fantasy. I do remember reading (Swapna?) that the book bears little resemblance to the book, which might irritate me. I’m sad that the audio didn’t deliver, because in my mind, it could have been awesome.

  6. September 17, 2010 7:23 am

    I enjoyed reading the book a year or two ago. I have another of Mayes’ book about life in Tuscany on the TBR shelf but not sure when I’ll get to read it.
    I’ve been warned about authors reading their own audiobooks but so far I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve listened to. Too bad this one didn’t work.

  7. September 17, 2010 8:23 am

    It reminds me a lot of Miranda Innes book ‘Cinnamon City’ where she went to Marrakesh to do the same. I would probably really enjoy it.

  8. September 17, 2010 8:33 am

    I have seen the movie and liked it. Perhaps I will go for the book one day now too

  9. Melissa S. permalink
    September 17, 2010 9:23 am

    If not for the movie, I wouldn’t have celebrated my own divorce with a cake either! The movie is never less than empowering for me anytime I watch it. I feel the same about Chocolat too!

  10. September 17, 2010 9:31 am

    I have heard a lot of good things about this book and really want to take the chance to read it. It’s too bad that the audiobook narrator didn’t really thrill you though. I will have to try to remember to score a paper copy and skip the audio.

  11. runningshadow permalink
    September 17, 2010 10:05 am

    I liked the movie, but I think it’s really different from the book. 🙂 Great review. You made me want to find a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun.

  12. September 17, 2010 10:47 am

    This is on my tbr list. Will get around it.

  13. stacybuckeye permalink
    September 17, 2010 11:09 am

    It might have been the author’s reading, but I found the book to be flat. It does make you want to go to Italy though!

  14. September 17, 2010 11:32 am

    i read this one because I didn’t like they way the author did the reading.

  15. September 17, 2010 11:56 am

    I read the book and had the same reaction as you did. We could both run away to Italy. lol I saw the movie years after I read the book and the separation of time allowed me to thoroughly enjoy the film. It didn’t matter that the film didn’t follow the book. Based on other movies that I know you’ve enjoyed, I’d recommend this one. You’ll like it a lot.

  16. September 17, 2010 12:04 pm

    I read this book when it first came out and like it, but didn’t love it. I enjoyed the movie but I did think they were very different.

  17. September 17, 2010 12:31 pm

    I had no idea this was a book! I’ve been wanting to watch the movie for ages, but now I’m glad I haven’t. Your review of it sounds wonderful. I love Tuscany, and I have a feeling this is the perfect ‘feel good’ book for when you’re in the dumps.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. September 17, 2010 12:39 pm

    I haven’t read this one or seen the movie. I’m looking forward to getting around to it, one of these days!

  19. September 17, 2010 1:19 pm

    I read the book last year and gave it 3 stars. I’ve been to Italy a few times, including Tuscany, so for me the best part was the memories it brought back. I also saw the movie and remember enjoying the cinematography.

  20. September 17, 2010 1:27 pm

    I tend to prefer a “warts and all” type of travel book, but I have been curious about this book. Italy is such a gorgeous country (only visited once) that I think nearly any book about it would appeal to me.

    As for the audio version: I usually enjoy hearing the author narrate his/her book. It is shame that her voice is not more appealing — but thanks for the heads up — this sounds like a book better read than listened to.

  21. September 17, 2010 1:50 pm

    I really enjoyed the movie, which I watched first. I then tried to read the book and ended up putting it down. I suppose I should have read the book first huh?

  22. September 17, 2010 2:19 pm

    I loved this book also. The movie was OK and completely different. Unike Eat, Pray, Love, where I wanted to be the author, in this case I just wanted to visit the author. (So did everyone else in the sequel.) Like you, I think I would have lost my mind before getting the house restored.

  23. September 17, 2010 2:53 pm

    I really enjoyed this book, but have never seen the movie. Now that you’ve reminded me of it, I just might pick it up for the weekend!

  24. September 17, 2010 3:12 pm

    I sort of loved the movie…it was lovely…funny and relaxing.

  25. September 17, 2010 3:21 pm

    I never thought this book was for me, and now after reading your review, I know I made the right decision not to read it.

  26. September 17, 2010 3:47 pm

    I absolutely adore the movie!! Haven’t read this one yet but I’ve always meant to.

  27. September 17, 2010 4:11 pm

    I feel I am one of the only ones, but I wasn’t a fan of the book. I read it, so can’t comment on the audio, but I just found it so SLOW. sigh. It did make me want to go to Italy though. If only for the sun and the food 😀

  28. September 17, 2010 4:38 pm

    I usually find that I prefer when authors read their own work, especially when it’s autobiographical, so it’s interesting to me that you feel Mayes was perhaps not the best choice for this audio book. I’ve read the book, but I’m tempted to request it on audio from my library so I can hear this monotonous voice!

  29. September 17, 2010 4:50 pm

    I was about to say, wasn’t this a movie? I remember really liking it when it first came out. I’ve been meaning to read the book, so glad it’s good!

  30. September 17, 2010 4:57 pm

    Lovely and honest review, Kathy. Have a great weekend. 🙂

  31. September 17, 2010 6:00 pm

    I’m glad you mostly liked the book. I have a copy, but haven’t gotten around to reading it just yet. I did like the movie, even if it’s not even close to the book.

  32. September 17, 2010 9:13 pm

    Glad to hear they are still together. But I bet it isn’t always a good choice to have the author be the reader … writing and reading aloud are two different skills!

  33. September 17, 2010 9:51 pm

    I enjoyed the movie a lot- it’s a light chick flick- but I’ll probably pass on the book. I’d recommend the movie for a sweet good time though!

  34. September 17, 2010 10:00 pm

    I really want to read this one – I tried it on audio, but couldn’t make it past the author’s voice. Will give it another try in print someday soon.

  35. September 17, 2010 10:07 pm

    I have had problems before with the author narrating an audiobook. They’re definitely not always the nest narrators.

  36. September 18, 2010 12:42 pm

    Oh man, it’s been so long since I read this book but I remember liking the idea of moving across the world and restoring a house. I think it was one of the first memoirs that really did this.

  37. September 18, 2010 1:00 pm

    i watched part of the movie but i can’t remember much of it. i didn’t even realize that the movie came from a book! shame on me.

  38. September 18, 2010 1:40 pm

    Can’t agree with you more about the author reading. I have the second book (name I can’t remember) and to hear her twangy voice describing Italy just isn’t right! I put it aside and will try again later – sometimes whether I like a narrator is tied to my mood.

  39. September 18, 2010 4:11 pm

    I picked up a copy of this book after my visit to Tuscany. It was beautiful there. But… I haven’t read it yet. The story sounds like something I’d like to do but I’m pretty sure I never will!

  40. September 18, 2010 5:32 pm

    Ahh, Italy. One day, I’d love to live there. And because of that dream, this is a book that I have been meaning to read for quite some time. Just haven’t really gotten around to it yet. Someday though …

  41. September 18, 2010 7:23 pm

    I’ve had this book on my shelf forever and a day and have yet to read it. However, the movie was so amazing and I’m pretty sure it’s on my top 10 favorite movies! 🙂

  42. September 19, 2010 12:31 am

    As is often the case, this movie was hard for me to watch after enjoying the book. I thought her descriptions of food and renovations were lovely and I missed those details in the film.

  43. September 19, 2010 1:45 am

    I haven’t read the book but the movie is sweet, funny, and endearing. I’d highly recommend it for a feel-good comedy.

  44. September 19, 2010 2:21 am

    I LOVED the movie and I cannot wait to read the book, I’ve heard they are quite different.

  45. September 19, 2010 3:50 am

    I liked the book okay. It had been promoted to me as something that I didn’t find it to be, but still It was good. The first time I saw the movie I didn’t like it that much…now every time it is on I find myself watching… I almost like it better… That is rare for me.

  46. September 19, 2010 6:52 am

    I loved the movie with Diane Lane and was amazed by the beauty of Tuscan shown . Loved Venice even more when we went for a family trip. Kids had a blast and we ate gelatos like they were never going out of style.

    Another great review and when you go to Italy just remember to take me with you 🙂

  47. September 20, 2010 3:06 am

    I loved this movie so much I want to move to Tuscany myself! She makes it look so ideal and romantic, doesn’t she? I guess I should really get around to the book, too, huh? 😉

  48. September 20, 2010 10:33 pm

    Sigh. I love Italy. And I loved this movie. I think, after reading your review, that I’d like the book too.

  49. September 22, 2010 6:40 am

    Given your review of the book “Under the Tuscan Sun”, I thought you might be interested to know that a documentary film is being made about what effects the book’s popularity has had on Cortona, the previously sleepy little Tuscan town where the book (then Hollywood film) was set. The documentary is called “The Genius of a Place”. It’s in post-production and should be released early in 2011. A 3-minute trailer can be seen on

  50. September 24, 2010 9:27 am

    I read this one a year ago while I was traveling around Europe and had some of the same problems you did with listening–flat and having to re-read passages. Overall I enjoyed it but found it better to savor in small doses. She has a new book out–have you read it?

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