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Tuscany for Beginners – what a load of twaddle!

Tuscany for Beginners – what a load of twaddle!

Feb 22nd, 2006, 07:30 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 432
Tuscany for Beginners – what a load of twaddle!

After reading glowing reviews on this forum about “Tuscany for Beginners” by Imogen Edwards-Jones, and as I own a B&B in Piedmont, I ordered a copy on-line thinking this would be an interesting topical novel to read.

I found it very disappointing, a soap opera with tragicomic characters from English suburbia which the author has set in Tuscany to give it an exotic appeal, but with very little bearing to Italy at all, in fact the type of characters would be more suited to the Costa del Bravo in Spain, but maybe there already has been a novel in this genre set there. The book does have some funny moments, but the caricature of a an English suburban housewife whose husband cheated on her with the neighbour (small wonder after you read the book) maintaining a façade in a Tuscan valley that is only inhabited by a few mediocre expats, threatened by a new American arrival, could be set anywhere, and anyone picking up this book thinking to read a good novel set in Italy should look elsewhere. Somerset Maugham’s “Up the Villa” is a better-written depiction of expat life in Tuscany (albeit 1930’s) and even Thomas Harris’s “Hannibal” gives readers a better feel for Italy as Dr. Lecter dines his way through Florence! And of course “Tuscan Sun”, “Passion for Piedmont” or “Extra Virgin” are some of the best modern non-fiction books about living in Italy.

And then the recipes! Well I sincerely hope that these are designed in caricature again to match the character, they are suited for ingredients from Tesco or Safeway, but Francis Meyes or Isabel Allende she is not. Here in Piedmont we are supremely confident about our cuisine being the best in Italy, but even in Tuscany serving these recipes would be enough to report her to the “vigili di gastromonia” (Worcester sauce in spaghetti bolognese!).

I only finished this piffling novel in desperation after running out of all other reading material in the bathroom, which is where it was rapidly consigned after the first chapter, and doubtless it would make OK light reading for the beach on Tristan Da Cunha or a sleepless long haul flight from New York to Auckland, it did remind me of the novels my daughter used to read when she was 16, but most definitely not my cup of tea.
Sampaguita is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 827
I thought it was a hoot myself; it's not meant to be profound. The recipes are definitely satirical, poking fun at the "memoirs" that include recipes. The whole book pokes fun at the memoir genre.
(I was the one who started the thread about it, I confess)
DejaVu is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 538
What, exactly, is wrong with a novel about chavs in Chiantishire? Does Sampaguita really believe all those villas in the Sunday Times ads are filled with characters from Summer's Lease?

The more such books the better. If they encourages more chavs to move their 4x4s off my doorstep and into Poggibonsi's scenic carparks, Ms Edwards-Jones will deserve a medal.
CotswoldScouser is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 10:53 AM
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A hoot for sure, and if that's where these typecast head to, let them hoot their urban 4x4 horns in Chiantishire and leave Piedmont for people who love Italy (after the Olympic madness is over!),(and your beloved Cotwolds, which I would have moved to except for the weather) we do see many wizzing by on the autostrada. But honestly I think Costa del Bravo or Corfu would have been a better setting for this novel, I was annoyed to have spend euro on BOL to get something I wasn't expecting, but no sweat in Poggi, I will leave it out for the wizzers to read. An it did have it's funny moments, but some folks took the recipes seriously on the last thread!
Sampaguita is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 11:43 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 827
Well, I was clear in my "glowing review" that this was a light, comic novel, so it's hardly my fault if it "wasn't something you were expecting" and you are "annoyed to have to spend Euro" on it. And nobody on that thread took those recipes for real. My goodness.
DejaVu is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 01:02 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,002
I agree that that book was pretty trashy. Here is a very good one: "Ciao, America," about an Italian writer who goes to live for a year in Georgetown, D.C. and comments with good humor about Americans and life in their country.
ekscrunchy is online now  
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