Frances Mayes has made quite a decent living writing about her life, particularly her time that she spends in Italy. I mean, her first novel (Under the Tuscan Sun) was even made into a movie starring Diane Lane! This book that I just finished reading happens to be the the latest in what I call her “Life in Italy” series, since Under The Tuscan Sun was first published back in 1997.
I was prompted to pick up her first book because my aunt Toni was once engaged to an Italian man and has spent a fair amount of time in Tuscany. She thought it captured the lifestyle accurately and wonderfully, and suggested I should read it. Being a good niece, I took Toni’s advice. I wound up enjoying it thoroughly and then moved on, forgetting about it for a few years until I found out about the movie and remembered how much I had enjoyed the book. I refused to see the movie because they gave it the Hollywood treatment by tweaking her story into a Rom Com. But anyway, I had no idea Frances Mayes had continued to write about her time living in Italy until I saw Every Day in Tuscany sitting on the shelf at my library and was stunned to realize I’d be skipping 15 years of her life that had been covered in the 3 books she had written since Under the Tuscan Sun. However, once I started reading, I would be comforted by how much had stayed the same and how much had changed.
The one thing I really walked away with after finishing up this newest delightful little chapter in her life is this: Whenever I hear that phrase “Write what you know”, this is exactly the kind of book I envision. I have read autobiographies of people whose lives were considered interesting, yet they didn’t have the writing chops to translate that into a good read. Conversely, if you’re a good writer you should be able to take what might not be such a great a story and turn it into something amusing. Frances is lucky in that not only does she actually live an interesting life, she also has skill to write about it in a way that makes me able to “see” her experiences in my head and wish longingly that I could have a life like hers. Her writing actually makes me envious of her! I love hearing about her summers filled with great friends who all take the time to enjoy life. They drink wine and cook up huge meals for dinner parties using the freshest ingredients, then relax and truly enjoy their families and friends. Frances fell in love with Italy, and one can’t help but fall in love with Italy, too because she writes with such life and vividness. If that’s not the true mark of an effective writer, I don’t know what is.