The story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year, from the bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun.
Don’t miss Frances Mayes in PBS’s Dream of Italy: Tuscan Sun Special!
She watches from her terrazza as the three American women carry their luggage into the stone villa down the hill. Who are they, and what brings them to this Tuscan village so far from home? An expat herself and with her own unfinished story, she can’t help but question: will they find what they came for?
Kit Raine, an American writer living in Tuscany, is working on a biography of her close friend, a complex woman who continues to cast a shadow on Kit’s own life. Her work is waylaid by the arrival of three women—Julia, Camille, and Susan—all of whom have launched a recent and spontaneous friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. Susan, the most adventurous of the three, has enticed them to subvert expectations of staid retirement by taking a lease on a big, beautiful house in Tuscany. Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, a gusto for life, and a fierce determination to thrive. But how? With Kit’s friendship and guidance, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long-forgotten—and with drastic and unforeseeable results.
Even fans of Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun may have trouble with her latest, a trifle about three American women who impulsively rent a house in Tuscany for a year. They meet while touring a North Carolina retirement community: Camille, 69, and 64-year-old Susan are widows, and Julia is separated from her spouse at 59. Their new neighbors in San Rocco are expats noted writer Kit and her longtime partner Colin have lived there for a decade. Not every day in Italy is halcyon, but it often feels that way: everyone becomes great friends and the women age like Benjamin Button. Even Kit, unable to have a baby and certainly not trying, gets pregnant. Camille, who was once a promising painter, experiences an artistic renaissance in scenes that are among the book's most intriguing, but her instant success undercuts their power. Susan and Julia also forge innovative new careers. All the magical light that brightens Mayes's Tuscany has the effect of canceling the shadows that might fall on her characters in a more realistic or layered story. The effect is a book that feels like a movie, but not an especially memorable one.
Women in Sunlight
This novel by Mayes is superb. The three women are well drawn and so full of life.
The author writes with such intensity and color, I want to delve into the pages and be there for all of the adventures revealed. The women come to realize that they can reinvent themselves in new and exciting ways. Age is not a factor and past experiences do not have to limit possibilities. I fell in love with this book as I have previous books by Mayes.
The Golden Girls Meet Rick Steves
I’ve read several of Frances Mayes’ novels, but for some reason, this particular book is not one of my favorites.
Yes, it’s a tour of Italy full of phrases, places, and customs I will probably never experience. At times though, the descriptions of the places contained in the text acted more like a road map or served seemingly to pad the page count.
I’m not guilty of ageism (being 50-something myself) so I did enjoy the three older women characters (thus, my comparison to The Golden Girls.)
This book started off exceedingly slowly. At the halfway point, I was ready to give up on the storyline as it seemed to crawl.
Don’t buy this book if you’re craving excitement, intrigue, or a fast paced read. If you want a quiet book about friendship, travel, and conviviality, this is for you. I’m definitely more rested after reading it, I fell asleep countless times. Sorry, Frances.