My Choices for Delicious Novels and Memoirs about Italy! Click on the links to order these books and dive in to the romantic pleasures of Italia!
The English Patient • Michael Ondaatje • Novel • This book is simply magnificent. I adore the poetic style of the author’s prose. It is a book to read slowly, and read more than once. I’ve read it twice and I know I’ll read it a third time. Not only do I love it for the author’s literary style, but also because its theme is about valuing history, literature, eloquence, and living deeply and loving passionately. The gorgeous movie won 9 academy awards and was partly filmed at the abbey of Sant’Anna in Camprena near Pienza —a location on the Tuscany retreats I have led.
A Room With a View • E.M. Forester • Novel • A classic, and one of my favorites, it was made into a wonderful movie by Merchant Ivory. Through the protagonist Lucy, the author delves into the struggle of how to be true to oneself when one is raised to satisfy the demands of family and society. We all cheer for Lucy as she breaks out of the claustrophobic and restrictive world of early 20th century England, and what is the spark that sets her on a more authentic and passionate path? A visit to Florence of course!
The Sixteen Pleasures • Robert Hellenga • Novel • Margot, a young American who is a specialist in book conservation, goes to Florence to offer assistance after the devastating flood of 1966. When a nun gives Margot a pornographic volume bound as a prayer book, Margot’s sexy Italian sojourn gets a whole lot hotter. This is a great read for anyone who loves books, art, and Florence. I was quite impressed by Robert Hellenga’s skill at writing from a woman’s perspective.
The Neopolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) • Elena Ferrante • Novel Trilogy • A wonderful evocation of a life-long friendship between bright and passionate girls from a poor neighborhood Naples. Writing under a pseudonym, the author declines to make personal appearances. As speculation abounds about her identity, she’s been catapulted to the position of Italy’s most compelling contemporary literary voice.
Beautiful Ruins • Jess Walter • Novel • Named among the best books of the year by NPR, Esquire, The San Francisco Chronicle, and People, it traverses Italy’s Ligurian coast in the 1960s to modern-day Hollywood and back again. A Washington Post review called it “The English Patient without the poetry or history,” which grabbed my attention since I find the The English Patient to be brilliant.
A Thousand Days in Venice • Marlena de Blasi • Memoir • Oh don’t we love these tales! The author, a chef and food consultant, impulsively leaves her home and her job in the U.S. to marry a Venetian she barely knows. She falls for his city as well and we are treated to vivid descriptions of seductive Venice and its food.
That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story • Marlena de Blasi • Memoir • This is a richly told intriguing page-turner of a love story, which the publisher classifies this as a travel memoir, although it reads like a novel and I’m unclear as to whether it’s entirely true. Marlena de Blasi tells the story of Tosca, heiress to a castle in the mountainous heart of Sicily and amante of last prince of Sicily descended from the French nobles of Anjou. This all came about when De Blasi stumbled upon Tosca’s castle while traveling in Sicily and Tosca decided to share her life story with De Blasi. Have any readers of this book searched for Tosca’s castle in Sicily? I’m curious!