Monday, June 18, 2018

Women in Sunlight

Title:  Women in Sunlight
Author:  Frances Mayes
Publication Information:  Crown. 2018. 448 pages.
ISBN:  045149766X / 978-0451497666

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "By chance, I witnessed the arrival of the three American women."

Favorite Quote:  "A house in Tuscany where they know no one. Everything open to reinterpretation."

The women in sunlight are at a certain age and at a certain stage of life. Are the junctures in their lives endings or new beginnings? The women are Julia, Camille, and Susan, all in their sixties. They meet by chance near their homes in the United States. They find a bond and shared experiences. They all find themselves at a crossroads.

A bold plan and the financial ability to make it happen leads them to a beautiful home in Tuscany. There, they meet Kit. Kit is a fellow American living in San Rocco, Tuscany working on her book. For the four, this becomes a journey in friendship, reflection, self-discovery, and new beginnings.

In some ways, this book is very similar to Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun. Find the perfect house. (Big caveats: Would you have the ability to afford it as these women do?) Pack up and come to Italy. Enjoy something about the house or make a discovery. Settle in as if you have always been there. Explore and reflect.

Unlike Under the Tuscan Sun, this book then is not about the renovation of the house, but rather about the new adventures these women encounter in Italy. Under The Tuscan Sun, however, does a much better job of painting a picture of an idyllic Tuscan location; this book does not leave the same imagery. The tone of the book, however, is very similar. Make a new discovery. Find some interesting character. Reflect and make decisions on the past and the future. Repeat many times from the start to the finish of the book. This is the feel good story of the book.  However, it is a little too idyllic for my taste. Everything seems to come or resolve itself too easily.

Added to this story is Kit's story or rather, I should say, Margaret's story. Kit has been living in Italy for ten to fifteen years. She is writing a book on her mentor Margaret. The story of the mentor becomes a part of this book. These reflections are by far my least favorite part of the book. Margaret is not a character in the book but, at the same time, seems to take up a lot of the story. I am still not entirely sure why. What does Margaret have to do with this story?

As with Under the Tuscan Sun, I want to like this book better than I do. The ideas of reinvention at any age and the strength of friendships between women all appeal to me. The idea that these women display the gumption to move so far away from what they know is appealing. Of course, the move and the sojourn in Tuscany is idealized, but the idea still intrigues.

Unfortunately, the story itself seems to drag. There are the back stories of these women. There is Margaret's story. There are the four families. At times, it is just confusing as to which of the women is involved with which story line. It just never quite comes together, and the character never quite develop enough. Sadly, I don't invest in the story beyond the initial draw of the idea.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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