Days Without End | Sebastian Barry

TITLE / Days Without End

AUTHOR / Sebastian Barry


DATE OF PUBLICATION / January 24, 2017

NO. OF PAGES / 259



Birthday Reading | Friday Reads

This past week has been one of my best reading weeks this year: I completed two books and hope to ride this momentum through this weekend. And I'm really hoping to get a lot of reading done this weekend because I'm finally taking the weekend off! It's my 26th birthday on Sunday (geez, am I really going to be 26?) and all I really want to do to celebrate is spend some time with my family, eat good food, and do some relaxing reading. Here's what I'm hoping to get through!

Five Came Back / Mark Harris
This is my nonfiction read of the moment. It's an examination of the five big American directors who got involved with the war effort during World War II and chose to turn their cameras on the conflict and so far, I'm definitely enjoying it. Unfortunately, I'm not too familiar with the directors or films Harris has mentioned so far and I can only hope that isn't taking away from my enjoyment of the book. On the plus side, when I've finally got through it, I'll have a whole list of films to check out!

History of Wolves / Emily Fridlund
History of Wolves will be my second Man Booker read of the year. I finished Sebastian Barry's Days Without End earlier this week, which was a fantastic reminder of why I follow the Prize: the nominated books always seem to resonate with me. I'm hoping for equally great things from History of Wolves, which was the only other Man Booker read readily available at my library. That being said, I've heard pretty mixed things about this one, so we'll see how I go.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain
Like I mentioned above, I just finished Days Without End, a lot of which reminded me a lot of Mark Twain's masterpiece. As soon as I made that connection I was hit with a voracious craving for some Huck Finn and so I've decided to reread (for the millionth time) what has become one of my favorite classics. And as a birthday present to myself, I decided to treat myself to the audiobook version read by Elijah Wood!


Under the Tuscan Sun | Frances Mayes

TITLE / Under the Tuscan Sun

AUTHOR / Frances Mayes

PUBLISHER / Broadway Books

DATE OF PUBLICATION / September 2, 1997

NO. OF PAGES / 299


"Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave."

I first saw the film Under the Tuscan Sun when I was around 11 or 12 years old, about five years before I took my first trip overseas to visit Italy with my high school choir. I absolutely fell in love with the film, with the romance of buying an old, crumbling house in some foreign country with the intention of quite literally building a new life for yourself from the ground up. I was enamored with the people Frances encountered, with the food, with the atmosphere of it all. And I would be completely lying if I said that I wasn't expecting just as much from the book, if not more.

Which brings me nicely to my first point: this memoir and the film are two completely different things. And while I found this a bit disappointing and disorienting at first, I can quite confidently say now that I am very glad that this was the case. For starters, it was easy enough to separate the book and movie in my mind and, most importantly, it meant that any frustrations I had with the book didn't affect my love of the film. In the film, Frances is a writer reeling from a sudden divorce who takes solitary refuge in the Tuscan countryside. In reality and in the memoir, Frances is a frequent traveler, an already established lover of Italy, and while her first marriage did fall apart, she buys the crumbling Bramasole estate with her then boyfriend Ed. In this case, the art of the film was inspired by life but did not mirror it exactly.

Now for my second point: Under the Tuscan Sun differs from other memoirs I've read in that there's no real "plot." Generally speaking, the memoir has a rough, chronological structure, but the narrative takes a wandering path at a slow pace. Rather than driving hard and fast towards some grand point or life lesson, Mayes leads readers through her meandering thoughts and memories as though we were touring her garden. She picks up side stories and digressions along the way, something that had many of the Goodreads reviewers at their wit's end.

Maybe these reviewers were fans of the film and were hoping for a bit more dramatic action, but as for me, I actually found this narrative style quite enjoyable. It became the perfect evening read. Mayes doesn't require much concentration and her lovely descriptions of life in the Tuscan countryside have a similar effect to a mug of tea and a warm blanket on a chilly night. And as she warns readers herself towards the beginning of the book, Under the Tuscan Sun was meant as a free form journal and record of sorts and I, for one, think it reads exactly as such.

My final point may actually be more of a warning: this isn't necessarily travel-writing for those who have never been to Italy before. Although Mayes does describe the quaintness of the Italian countryside very well, Under the Tuscan is not a book about traveling or experiencing the sights and sounds of Italy. It's a memoir about renovating a house and starting a new chapter of life. It's about deciding to take a leap of faith and all of the rewards that may follow.

By no means is this a perfect book. It's not groundbreaking, in any sense of the word. Mayes does ramble at times and I can't say I was inspired to read every single word with the greatest intensity of concentration. In fact, I found her tendency to throw in Italian words here and there fairly annoying by the end of it all. However, if you are looking for a quiet, beautifully descriptive read about the magic of creating something with your own two hands, Under the Tuscan Sun might be just the book for you.

About Under the Tuscan Sun | About Frances Mayes

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.


The Willoughby Book Club | Unboxing

You guys know I would never share anything with you that I didn't believe in one hundred and twenty percent, so when I say that the Willoughby Book Club is the first subscription box I've felt genuinely excited about, I really mean it! It's the best of both worlds: beautiful new books picked just for you and beautiful books sent to children in need. What more can you ask for?

More about the WBC's subscription boxes | Use my affiliate link for 10% off!

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Willoughby Book Club affiliate program. I will receive a small commission from any purchase made through my affiliate link, but was not otherwise paid to review or feature this subscription service. This review is 100% my own opinion.


The Happiness Zine

Just on the off chance that you haven't seen me banging on about this on social media, I created a zine! More specifically, it's a mini downloadable art zine full of things that make me happy.

Interested in checking out the zine for yourself? You can find it HERE.


August and Bout of Books 20 Wrap Up

I finally, finally feel like I've gotten my reading groove back. I know I've said that before (many times, I'm sure), but I really mean it this time. And I think I have Ms. Elizabeth Gaskell and her beautiful novel Wives and Daughters to thank for it!

Books Read
Crazy Rich Asians / Kevin Kwan
> Read the review
Northanger Abbey / Jane Austen
Wives and Daughters / Elizabeth Gaskell

Currently Reading
Pigeon-Blood Red / Ed Duncan
Five Came Back / Mark Harris