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A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller [Paperback]

Frances Mayes
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 13 2007

A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNDER MAGNOLIA

A Year in the World is vintage Frances Mayes—a celebration of the allure of travel, of serendipitous pleasures found in unlikely locales, of memory woven into the present, and of a joyous sense of quest. With her beloved Tuscany as a home base, Mayes travels to Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, and to the Mediterranean world of Turkey, Greece, the South of Italy, and North Africa. Weaving together personal perceptions and informed commentary on art, architecture, history, landscape, and social and culinary traditions, Mayes brings the immediacy of life in her temporary homes to readers. An illuminating and passionate book that will be savored by all who loved Under the Tuscan Sun, A Year in the World is travel writing at its peak.


Frequently Bought Together

A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller + Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy + Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life
Price For All Three: CDN$ 36.81


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Even people who don't normally read travel books are aware of the old Italian villa that Mayes and her husband restored, chronicled in Mayes's bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun and three other books about Tuscany. So it's somewhat surprising when Mayes declares her wanderlust, her passion for other beautiful places in the world. She adores Tuscany, but also loves tasting other people's cuisines, learning their gardening habits, reading their poetry, swimming their waters. She's always looking around and wondering, "How do place and character intertwine? Could I feel at home here? What is home to those around me? Who are they in their homes, those mysterious others?" In this luminous volume, she and her husband visit southern Spain, Portugal, Sicily, southern Italy, Morocco, Greece, Crete, Scotland, Turkey and places in between. Usually they rent an apartment or villa, so they can cook, sprawl and feel like "locals." They survive a couple of package trips (a cruise around the Greek islands, a small charter around Turkey) which only highlight the pleasures of independent travel—having the freedom to wander and discover things for themselves, without a schedule. And happily, there's no mention of prices to mar readers' escapist fantasies. (Mar. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

What Mayes accomplished in her popularization of Tuscany she now extends to a larger stage. Despite the title's claim, she does not reach everywhere on this orb, but she and her husband do manage a slow, deliberate itinerary taking them across much of Western Europe with a brief touchdown in Africa. Commencing with an excursion to Madrid in January, Mayes tours Spain down through Andalusia and the Costa del Sol. Portugal follows. By May, she returns to Italy, not to her beloved Tuscany, but first to Naples and then to Sicily. The couple spends time in Burgundy and Scotland before hopping back to Aegean lands. Wherever she goes, Mayes reflects at length on the cultural, historical, and literary highlights of the lands and peoples she visits. Mayes' touchstone in every locale is the region's cuisine. Her brief inventory of Portuguese soups alone could inspire a reexamination of that nation's cookery. Naples' pizza and cheese, Sicily's seafood, Crete's lamb, and Scotland's shortbread receive Mayes' encomiums. From time to time, Mayes even offers some recipes. Befitting her gifts as a poet, Mayes' prose shines with evocative imagery, bringing life to every subject she encounters across her peripatetic year. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I tried but this is brutal May 25 2007
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The problem with this is I found her husband's comments far more interesting when she quoted him. Basically, the wrong person wrote this book. I gave up halfway through the second country (Portugal after Spain) she visited as the writing bored me beyond belief. It just seemed that she made no effort to meet interesting people. She also seemed to have swallowed a dictionary which is a killer for me as it just makes the writer sound pretentious. Shame this travel book blows as the places the writer visits are ones I'm totally interested in.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mayes' misses March 26 2007
Format:Paperback
This book is not as charming as her previous output. Mayes' is too much in evidence and complains too much. For a traveller, she doesn't seem to do her research. Why else would she end up in so many lodgings that are shabby, dark or generally not up to spec? The tone of the book is not upbeat. She worries that she and Ed won't be able to afford to live without their jobs - which they decide to leave as she explains in the preface. This from an author who has sold so many books and movie rights! In addition, Mayes spends much of her time describing the places she visits in a moanng way - where are the quaint settings she longs for? The world moves on but Mayes seems to wish that the imagined way of life from the past should be available to her. One questions why 'the rest of the world' should remain static so she can enjoy it. Finally, she commits an egregious error by placing Wales in England. How did the editor miss that mistake?
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Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  84 reviews
87 of 93 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Reluctantly dragged along with Frances Mayes Aug. 14 2006
By Reading Mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book really irritated me. I loved Mayes's previous books and was really looking forward to reading this one. The concept, a year of traveling to different locations, seemed like it would be really interesting combined with Mayes' fresh perspectives, enthusiasm for discovery, feisty opinions and poetic descriptions. But somehow it didn't work.

I get the sense that her heart wasn't really in this book. Maybe because the trips were taken over a span of five years, and cobbled together? Or because there's so much `padding' - endless quotes from her own or other people's writing. When she liked the place, her descriptions feel artificially enthusiastic, almost as if the book was paid for by the chamber of commerce. I got tired of reading that she could live there, or could imagine taking her grandson there, or wishes she was born there, or that it's SO much better than San Francisco. Where she doesn't live anymore, and hasn't for years. There are also too many stories about refreshing local characters who think Frances Mayes is the nicest, most tasteful, most interesting person they've ever met. Especially since these people tend to be waiters, cab drivers, rug salesmen or others whose business depends on charming the tourists.

Most of the book consists of sneering at her fellow Americans, or talking about people's personal appearance. This is boring and clichéd - and if you like that kind of thing, Bill Bryson does it better. There's also way too much name dropping (she's always mentioning "my friend so-and-so, the famous ____"). What happened to the ordinary, financially stretched, middle-aged college professor? She seems to be taking on the persona of a celebrity. She doesn't want to be crowded in with a group, doesn't want to associate with ordinary tourist types - now she deserves the VIP treatment. This is definitely a change from her previous books.

I think when it comes right down to it, there's too much Frances Mayes in this book. I thought I liked her, but what I really like is her writing style. It can still be magical - when she gets her ego out of the way. But when she puts herself front and center, she becomes more tedious and pretentious than interesting. Now I'm sorry I read this book, because I'm afraid it will spoil my enjoyment of the earlier ones.
85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was bored! March 26 2006
By M.C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Frances Mayes is a great a writer. I've read "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Bella Tuscany" three times each and just love them. I had anticipated this new book for months before its release and was so excited to hold it in my hands. I wanted to savor every page. Very quickly, though, I was simply bored and kept falling asleep. Each chapter is divided by destination. To say Frances writes about food is an understatement. Pages and pages are filled with nothing but food and drink. It's tedious after a while. I thought perhaps it was because she was writing about Spain's food and Portugal's food (even hiring someone to teach her to cook the local food). I thought maybe I was only interested in her writing about Italy & that's why I was losing interest. I finally managed to get to the chapter in Sicily. Oh boy. The chapter had Frances writing about two Sicilian authors and reiterating their books for pages and pages, quoting lengthy paragraphs, comparing the two authors. I felt like I was back in college reading a boring essay. So I finally skipped to the chapter on Capri....a vacation dream of mine. Frances complained about other tourists there (as she did in Bella Tuscany). I just don't know if I'll go back and read the chapters on Greece and Ireland.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Long Yawn June 8 2006
By Zirondelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Gad! Such a looooooong book! This would better be called "A Year (or Maybe 5) in Only Part of the World" since most of the places visited were European. Long-winded and loopy with adjectives, Mayes writes about food, literature, food, art, food, architecture, and food. I'm surprised she and her husband don't roll around the places they visit - they must each weigh a ton or two by now. I did enjoy the descriptions of the crazy Italian traffic HOWEVER I got a wee bit tired of hearing how fantastic European cities are compared to poor little ole' San Francisco. Traffic bad in Portugal? Look at San Francisco! Beggars in Naples? Just look at San Francisco! No place is perfect, and I'd much rather read travel stuff written by someone who has a more balanced prospective.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Under the Tuscan Shadow Lies a Hopscotch Tour of Europe and the Mediterranean March 21 2006
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I think the best travel essay books transcend the logistics of roaming through exotic locations to bring out a strong narrative thread that illuminates themes more resonant than the author's own self-discovery. Author Frances Mayes achieved a universal sense of liberation and self-acceptance with her most famous book, "Under the Tuscan Sun", but despite her immense gift in conveying the images of foreign cultures, she falls a bit short with her latest collection of essays. Timing also works against her as fellow writer Elizabeth Gilbert has recently come out with her own revealing diary of a year traveling abroad with "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia".

Whereas Gilbert undergoes a cathartic experience that transforms her from an urban-dwelling workaholic, Mayes - having already experienced her own catharsis in refurbishing a 900-year old Tuscan villa - already seems well prepared for the pleasures and hazards of travel and often comes across as a dilettante in the way she and her husband Ed hopscotch the globe in search of a feeling of home all over Europe and the Mediterranean. Giving up the security of their tenured university positions, the couple covers quite a bit of ground, and in fact, each chapter represents a unique locale and consequently an idiosyncratic experience. As if hosting a travel series, they go to museums that range from the world-renowned Prado in Madrid to a Welsh museum filled with over one thousand teapots. In a less adventurous vein than Anthony Bourdain, they also dine on the local cuisine whether it is churros in Sevilla or Sally Lunn bread in the Cotswolds or Ed's constant quest for the perfect espresso. Academics at heart, they immerse themselves into the local literature to ensure they are not ignorant before coming to landmarks of historical or cultural significance.

However, as with Gilbert's book, the best passages in Mayes' book have to do with the local people that she and Ed meet and get to know. Mayes has a particular talent in describing unique characters like the aggressive, multilingual Istanbul rug dealer who sends notes in miniature looms or the Fez tour guide who loves to quote from Joseph Conrad. These are the people that bring the book to life. Frances and Ed, on the other hand, seem like observers, thoughtful tour guides for the upscale traveler. The author seems to be taking a page from Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel" where he waxes fondly on the multitude of epiphanies brought about by one's own voyaging and mixing the resulting experiences with observations made by the great artists and writers. I just think Mayes doesn't quite elucidate those epiphanies at a meaningful enough level given the hodgepodge approach of their journey.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Evocative but Disjointed July 18 2006
By Ren Rorschach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, did not set out to write a typical travel book with A Year in the World. She wanted to forgo the usual hotel stays and the trekking from one tourist hotspot to the next, and instead aimed to discover, "could I feel at home here? What is home to those around me?"

Renting (mostly luxurious) homes in such places as Fez, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Britain, Mayes and her husband set about attempting to truly feel at home in these various locations. While this premise sounds interesting enough, Mayes struggles to convey her experiences to her audience. Her writing seems at times not to wander far from notebook sketches, yet at other moments is full of self-important prose and metaphors so tired I want to pick them up and carry them. And all throughout, she peppers long - and quite unnecessary - quotes from the various books she is reading along with recipes, and descriptions of gardens that go into far too much detail. The result seems disjointed and too clever, and renders the book very difficult to read.

A Year in the World does have some fine moments, such as Mayes' evocative descriptions of local food that reveal her delight at discovering new taste sensations. But mostly I found myself wanting more - such as when she prefers to conjure up imaginative images of historical scenes rather than inform the reader of the often fascinating true history - or I found myself wanting less, as many inclusions in the book seem superfluous. The impression I ended with was not of what it meant to be `at home' in the countries Mayes and her husband visited, but of what is was to have a series of obviously expensive holidays that centered around food, gardens, and literature.
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