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  • Written by Frances Mayes
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On Sale: August 26, 2003
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-7679-1745-2
Published by : Broadway Books Crown Trade Group

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Read by Frances Mayes
On Sale: July 05, 2000
ISBN: 978-0-553-75157-4
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
EVENTS EVENTS
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A CLASSIC FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF UNDER MAGNOLIA

Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

Excerpt

In 1990, our first summer here, I bought an oversized blank book with Florentine paper on the cover and blue leather binding.  On the first page I wrote ITALY.  The book looked as though it should have immortal poetry in it but I began with lists of wildflowers, lists of projects, new words, sketches of tile in Pompeii.  I described rooms,  trees, bird calls.  I added planting advice, "Plant sunflowers when the moon crosses Libra," although I had no clue myself as to when that might be.  I wrote about the people we met and the food we cooked.  The book became a chronicle of our first four years here.  Today it is stuffed with menus, postcards of paintings, a drawing of a floor plan of an abbey, Italian poems, and diagrams of the garden.  Because it is thick, I still have room in it for a few more summers.  Now the blue book has become Under the Tuscan Sun, a natural outgrowth of my first pleasures here.  Restoring then improving the house, transforming an overgrown jungle into its proper function as a farm for olives and grapes, exploring the layers and layers of Tuscany and Umbria, cooking in a foreign kitchen and discovering the many links between food and the culture--these intense joys frame the deeper pleasure of learning to live another kind of life.  To bury the grape tendril in such a way that it shoots out new growth I recognize easily as a metaphor for the way life must change from time to time if we are to go forward in our thinking.



    
Frances Mayes

About Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes - Under the Tuscan Sun

Photo © Will Garin/Banner Media Group

FRANCES MAYES is the author of four books about Tuscany. The now-classic Under the Tuscan Sun–which was a New York Times bestseller for more than two and a half years and became a Touchstone movie starring Diane Lane. It was followed by Bella Tuscany and two illustrated books, In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home. She is also the author of the novel, Swan, six books of poetry, and The Discovery of Poetry. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Praise

Praise

A New York Times Notable Book of 1997

"This beautifully written memoir about taking chances, living in Italy. loving a house and, always, the pleasures of food, would make a perfect gift for a loved one.  But it's so delicious, read it first yourself."
--USA Today

"Irresistible...a sensous book for a sensous countryside."
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“An intense celebration of what [Mayes] calls ‘the voluptuousness of Italian life’ . . . appealing and very vivid . . . [The] book seems like the kind of thing you’d tuck into a picnic basket on an August day . . . or better yet, keep handy on the bedside table in the depths of January.”
New York Times Book Review

"Armchair travel at its most enticing."
--Booklist

“Mayes [has] perfect vision. . . . I do not doubt that centuries form now, whoever lives in Bramasole will one day uncover bits of pottery used at Mayes’ table. She has, by the sweat of her brow and the strength of her vision, become a layer in the history of this place.”
--Los Angeles Times

"After buying a rundown villa in rural Tuscany, the American author Frances Mayes moves to Cortona to renovate the property and learn more about the Italian dolce vita. Her bestselling memoir on her time there paints a vivid description of the town, the people and the lush surrounding countryside of rolling hills and vineyards. A poet and a gourmet cook, Mayes includes a number of chapters on food, replete with classic Italian recipes to further whet the appetite."
--Irish Times
About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Guide

"This beautifully written memoir about taking chances, living in Italy, loving a house, and, always, the pleasures of food, would make a perfect gift for a loved one. But it's so delicious, read it first yourself."
--USA Today

Frances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescoes beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people. In Under the Tuscan Sun, she brings the lyrical voice of a poet, the eye of a seasoned traveler, and the discerning palate of a cook and food writer to celebrate the pleasures of Italian life.

About the Author

Frances Mayes is the author of Bella Tuscany, a memoir of her further adventures in Italy; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry, most recently Ex Voto. A frequent contributor to food and travel publications including the New York Times, House Beautiful, and Food & Wine, she divides her time between Cortona, Italy, and San Francisco, where she is a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University. She is currently at work on a novel.

Discussion Guides

1. "What are you growing here?" is the first line of Under the Tuscan Sun. In what ways does that question symbolize how the book came about? What does it say about Frances Mayes's life in Italy, and about her life in general?

2. Mayes writes of the traumatic experience of selling one house and purchasing another on various occasions in the United States. Why is the purchase of her house in Italy so qualitatively different from her other experiences with home ownership?

3. "The house is a metaphor for the self," Frances Mayes writes. Discuss some examples of this, both in her life and in your own.

4. What makes Mayes's writing style effective? How does her particular voice make her descriptions come alive? What images did you find to be particularly striking?

5. What are some of the qualities of Italian life that contrast most sharply with American culture? Which aspects of Italian life did Frances and Ed find it important to incorporate into their own lives? Which aspects would you have been drawn to?

6. How does the experience of purchasing and renovating Bramasole impact Frances and Ed's relationship, and how does their interaction affect their shared experience of buying, owning, and living in Bramasole?

7. How does the author change as the book progresses? How are her changes reflected in her tone and in her writing?

8. Mayes's house is called "Bramasole," which literally means "yearning for the sun." However, soon after she purchases the house, Mayes dreams that its real name is "Centi Angeli," or "one hundred angels." Discuss the ways in which this proves to be a premonitory dream. What are some of the other discoveries made throughout Bramasole and its grounds that lend a magical feeling to the house?

9. What role does food play, both metaphorically and literally, in the sense of delight that deepens Mayes's relationship to Tuscany and the house itself?

10. Mayes often portrays life in Cortona as timeless. How does she also convey that the timelessness is in many ways just an illusion? How does the "sense of endless time" affect her household?

11. What is Mayes's philosophy about the friend who speaks disparagingly of contemporary Italy and says it's "getting to be just like everywhere else--homogenized and Americanized" (p. 110)? How does Mayes's response address globalization in general?

12. Mayes's loving descriptions of food, her recipes, and her gardening tips add sensuality to the book, but what are some of their other functions in Under the Tuscan Sun?

13. What is Mayes's advice to readers who have "the desire to surprise your own life" (p. 191)? How would you respond to this impulse? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to the time of life Mayes chose for embarking on a major change? Discuss some of your own turning points and "forks in the road."

14. Although Under the Tuscan Sun isn't a novel, would you say that in many ways it reads like one? If so, what is the spring, the inner tension, that propels the book forward and shapes its form?

15. Besides presenting us with wonderful descriptions of food, scenery, and people, what is the other major impetus of Under the Tuscan Sun?

16. As the book draws to a close, Mayes asks rhetorically, "Doesn't everything reduce in the end to a poetic image--one that encapsulates an entire experience in one stroke?" (p. 256). In your opinion, which image or scene best "encapsulates the entire experience" of Mayes's time in Italy?

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Frances Mayes - Under the Tuscan Sun

Photo © Will Garin/Banner Media Group

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