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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2000
This is a pretentious, boring and poorly written book that has very little to do with Tuscany. The author is a wealthy American who vacations in Italy 3 months out of the year with her lover, Ed, and spends the majority of her social time with British and American expatriots. The Italians she knows are primarily tradesmen. They are drawn as caricatures with little or no depth. She declines a dinner invitation with an Italian family because after 7 years her Italian is evidently not good enough to converse. If this book is about anything it's about a subject near and dear to the author's heart: herself. Mayes is riddled with fears and she shares all of them with us. She's afraid of the mafia. When she goes to Sicily she thinks they're everywhere. They run into a funeral and it must be a mafia funeral. Their Sicilian waiter reminds her of a terrorist. It makes you wonder if she didn't check under the bed each night to make sure the mafia hadn't snuck in. She's afraid of robed priests because they remind her of the Ku Klux Klan! (I'm not making this stuff up) She's afraid of birds and bats. She's filled with insecurity. At the end of each trip she feels sad because her friends and relatives are going on with their lives without knowing where she is. No ego problem here! The author is ambivalent about religion in general and Chritianity in particular. She makes numerous insensitive comments regarding Catholicism, the primary religion in Italy. The author is downright rude and thoughtless. She paints an insulting picture of the "assault of houseguests" she faces each year. And with all of this is the same conspicuous consumption described in her previous book. She and Ed contantly eat and drink and buy their way through Italy. This time around they continue their spending by buying a new home in California. Even the recipes stink. Why this book is called "Bella Tuscany" is a mystery. Read the books of Tim Parks for a real description of life in Italy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 1999
I'm proud of myself for finishing this giant yawn of a book. I really enjoyed UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. Yes, it was over-fawning sometimes, as well as preachy and judgmental, but it was about something: renovating a tuscan villa. I loved it for the vicarious thrill of remodeling a house, gardening, cooking, and getting to know the neighbors in Tuscany. So, I presume, did everyone else. This book, however, skimps on everything I liked in the first book and splurges on everything I hated. Three or four chapters (at most) mention the villa, the garden, and the food. That's all. The rest (i.e. most) of the book is Frances Mayes preaching about life , art, politics, and people. We get endless pages on paintings. Does she like this one? Does Ed? Should we? And just when you think you can't take any more, you get whopped with a chapter called "Breathing Art". Yes, "Breathing Art". Beyond belief, isn't it. We also get her uninformed tourist's take on Sicily and the mafia, as well as her beginning Italian speaker's take on the difference speaking Italian makes to one's world view. Then, there is Ed's poetry.... I guess that in the success of her first book, Frances Mayes forgot who she really is: a two-bit lit prof from a two-bit California college who spends a few weeks each year in Italy. Nothing else could possibly explain this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed "Under the Tuscan Sun", so I decided to read "Bella Tuscany". I found "Bella Tuscany" to be a little boring and not at all what I'd expected. I had expected to see Mayes grow more accustomed to living in Italy and there fore be more "Italian". She still seemed like an American living in Italy with the "Oh my I'm in a foreign country" syndrome most tourists encounter. I had expected Mayes to have grown a lot more as a writer also, I found this book to be dry. It was like she was rambling on and on and on. I was to the point where I didn't even want to finish the book just so I could be put out of my misery. The book should have ended at the end of "Anselmo's Idea of Tomatoes", she had the perfect book-ender as the chaper closer, instead she rambled on and on for 30 more pages. It was nice to see what happened to some of the characters and things like that. But, she is writing "In Tuscany", she could have saved some of the rambling for that. I'm not sure if I will even bother with "In Tuscany" because I found this to be so boring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 1999
Having just finished reading her first book about Tuscany, "Under the Tuscan Sun", a charming and compelling narrative about restoring an old house in the hills of Tuscany and learning to live in Italy, and having just returned from a trip to Italy myself, I could hardly wait to read this book. I should have saved the $15 and spent it on a few more bowls of that wonderful Italian chocolate gelato.... I guess when you pour years worth of experiences into a book, it's hard to come up with something else to say fast enough to get a sequel out while the money machine is still spitting out bills.
I think I will go back and re-read her first book, so that the impression that sticks in my mind is not the horrible sense of disappointment that grew worse with each page of this book.
Sigh...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 1999
This book is so obnoxious it surely deserves recognition! Aside from the author being self-obsessed, I found her completely without any sense of the real world. Does one really "endure" the flight to and from Italy several times a year to live in their summer house?
I also found the constant mention of the costs involved with renovating two massive houses in some of the world's most expensive real estate markets quite despicable.
Also, it was in poor taste to allow people to stay at your hallowed house and then write horrible things about them in a published book. As a Southerner, I am quite embarrassed for her manners.
I would suspect that if another novel comes from this series (the first was much more palatable), it is only because she wants to add a guesthouse.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2000
I loved Under The Tuscan Sun which focused on Tuscany, its people, places and food. This book is about Sicily, where the author was either cold, rained on, put in crummy rooms or deeply frightened by the mafia, which she seems to believe are everywhere, and Venice, where we learn about her bird phobia, and San Francisco, where she buys another house to renovate and gives the ultimate bird to her former husband by (if you believe it) not recognizing him at her daughter's wedding. It is also about Ed, who I refuse to believe exists. But most of all it's about shopping. Fran buys everything she sees, smells, or heard rumors of, and will doubtless be named the patron saint of shopkeepers in Tuscany and Umbria. This is a boring and self-absorbed effort that her editor should have stopped cold.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 1999
Under The Tuscan Sun was terrific. It was refreshing and had an interesting plot for a non-fiction book: how will the acquisition and restoration of Bramasole work out? All of us who have fantasized about doing what Ms. Mayes did were intrigued. Bella Tuscany, however, is pure trash. No intrigue, no hook and outright boring. Moreover, it is poorly writtenand has virtually no educational worth. Ms. Mayes and Ed should stick to writing poetry which is not read by anyone but students. Moreover, she should leave the Cortona area alone. Citizens of the area are tired of her and the publicity she has invited. Now that she has made a few bucks, maybe she will just blend into the beautiful Tuscan environment and let the world's spotlight tarnish some other area.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 1999
The "Bella Italia" industry cranks up again, when our smug and self-satisfied rich Americans deal with the quaint natives once again. How many times over the two books do we have to be told about the sufferings on the bank account caused by renovating a country villa in the most expensive region of Italy? Oh, yeah, for sure! If she really wants to know anything about Sicily and the mafia ("I never heard anyone say mafia in a whole week!" she exclaims breathlessly. No, they don't tend to go round talking about it, and when they do, the term mafia is not usual...at least amongst my Sicilian relatives!)....Ms Mayes..read Peter Robb's "Midnight In Sicily".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 1999
Another disappointment. This dribble has little to do with Italy and no plot. This best part of the book is the picture of the house. The chapter on Sicily appears to be plagerized from On Persephone's Island by Mary Taylor Simeti who has lived in Sicily for years, speaks the language and in contrast to Ms. Mayes really knows the people (published 1986). it is disgusting to see a writer mention her sadness about prostitution in Italy and then move on to discuss hiring full time garderners and choosing between tile or marble for the bathrooms. Also, it is suprising for a woman who claims to love teaching to portray the students she has as "uh like idiots".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 1999
Please tell me what vacationing in Sicily and Venice, attending a funeral in Minnesota and a wedding in California have to do with Tuscany. The reader buys the book expecting several hundred pages filled with insight into Tuscany only to be bored to tears with the ramblings of a self-indulgent author. Frances Mayes has taken her fantasy of becoming the next Martha Stewart to the pinnacle. First she's a poet and travel writer, then a chef and now a landscape designer and art historian. Even Martha wouldn't attempt this many feats as a mere mortal! This book was written for one reason, to coattail on the success of her first book and to rip the reader off!
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