I wanted to make a trailer for this book, but unfortunately a vital piece of my equipment broke down; I think this music captures the spirit of this book: Musetta's Waltz (You can listen while you read!)
As summer winds down I think I have just the perfect end-of-summer novel for you: Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes (author of Under the Tuscan Sun). I had started it years ago when it was first published (2018), but then put it aside. When a new RipeReads friend recommended it a few weeks ago (thanks Lisa P!) I decided to start it again, and this time devoured it!
Single women Camille, aged 69, Julia, 59 and Susan, 64, meet while touring a retirement community in North Carolina. Each is looking at options for their next stage of life, but when the three strike up a friendship and begin spending time together, they make a new plan: rent a beautiful old house in San Rocco, Tuscany and spend a year there together, traveling, cooking, gardening, learning the language and making art. After each of them takes the necessary steps to settle their affairs at home, they are off on their adventure.
When they arrive in San Rocco, their neighbor, American ex-pat writer Kit, is at first wary of their bold encroachment into her quiet landscape, but they all soon become great friends, learning from, inspiring, and being supportive of each other:
"That October afternoon when I saw them tumbling out of Gianni's van in their bright jackets, I couldn't have dreamed that their lives could enhance ours so abundantly. There's not a word in English or Italian for those in our lives who are between friends and family."
While in Italy, each of the three women visitors are able to rediscover parts of themselves they had put aside during their married years in the states. In an interview, author Frances Mayes says:
"With Women in Sunlight my focus was on the place, but more on giving these lovely women a big second (or tenth) chance. Their reawakenings have more to do with them than the place itself."
Art History teacher Camille revisits the idea of creating art, Real Estate Broker Susan is interested in landscape design, and Julia is all about food. The descriptions of the meals that Julia and others prepare are magnificent and mouth-watering:
"Various salumi crostini of...peas and mascarpone, bowls of baked spicy olives, prociutto wrapped around bread sticks, cheeses, endive leaves stuffed with farro salad, mushroom pastries, and fried vegetable slivers."
I so enjoyed reading about these women, their histories, their inquiries and adventures, and seeing how each flourishes into a more joyful, life-affirming version of themselves. Their stories are all told from Kit's point of view, which worked well. What didn't work so well for me was Kit's ramblings about a friend whom she is writing a biography about (which is probably what prompted me to put the book aside, originally). If I were editing this book I would have cut out this side story, as each time it emerges it feels like a bit of an interruption. But I still wholeheartedly recommend this gorgeous, touching book, especially to those looking for some food inspiration to make these last sweet weeks of summer, delicious.
Since this title has been around for a bit, you can check it out from your library, or use the phone apps called Libby or Overdrive to borrow the book on your E-Reader, or borrow the Audiobook on your phone. You can also order the book from your local bookstore (always my favorite choice!) or support your local bookstore by ordering the Audiobook on Libro.fm. Do you use any of these platforms? Though I sell my piano books (have I mentioned that I write music books?) on Amazon, I like to buy the books I read from my local bookstore, Village Well. Do you have a favorite bookstore? I would love it if you would send me a photo of you at your favorite bookstore, and tell me where the bookstore is located. I love finding out about new independent bookstores and would SO enjoy getting to see a photo of you! Email your photo to me at RipeReadsBookBlog@gmail.com and let me know if I may share your photo on this blog.
Happy Reading! And enjoy the sunlight 🌞📚🌞📚
Paperback 464 pages, Audiobook about 17 hours.