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Paperback Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture Book

ISBN: 0449910806

ISBN13: 9780449910801

Desiring Italy: Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture

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Book Overview

For centuries Italy has been many things to many people. In this brilliant anthology and traveler's companion, twenty-eight first-rate women writers reveal why the land that is the heart and soul of European civilization is so seductive to women. Kate Simon walks us through a Siena filled with surprises and luminous beauty. Elizabeth Spencer writes of first coming to Italy and finding home. Shirley Hazzard explores the mysteries of Naples. Muriel...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

As aesthetic and eccletic as the Italians themselves!

This book is a treasure chest, a real find! Susan Cahill gives us here a fabulously artistic collection of woman's writings, all of which are centered around Italy and Italian experiences. The result is a resplendent patchwork of thoughts, ideas, articles, recipes, facts, stories... great writings, which explore various aspects of that paradise on earth and its inhabitants that we all know as Italy and the Italians. This book makes a great travel companion, whether you are traveling or not, or a great souvenir, in case you read it only once you are back. I highly recommend it not only for its literary side but because it very astutely portrays the multi-faceted, highly aesthetic "dolce vita" from numerous angles...

A wonderful companion

I love Italy and I love this book. It is arranged in regional sections, but that is not entirely relevant because the pieces range over time and subject. For example, in the section on The Veneto there is an excerpt from Marcella Hazan's 'Classic Italian Cookbook' (incidentally, one of the very finest cookbooks - a lovely literary work, and the recipes work too!) - on Italian Cooking: where does it come from? The Italian art of eating, restaurants The bacaro experience, gelati. Simply scrumptious.The other contributors are the very best of literature: Edith Wharton, Francine Prose, Maty Shelley, Jan Morris, Muriel Spark (one of my favourite evocations and lived experiences: Venice in Fall and Winter), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Elizabeth von Arnim, Francesca Alexander, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Mary McCarthy, Kate Simon, Iris Origo, Lisa St Aubin de teran, Patricia Hampl, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Fuller, Eleanor Clark, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Spencer, Rose Macaulay, Shirley Hazzard, Ann Cornelisen, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Mary Taylor Simeti.Each contribution is preceded by some brief contextual information on the author's piece. It is not 'biographical' in the sense of being a recitation of dates and places and events, more a little about the author's motivations or expressed thoughts about Italy or the subject at hand. After the excerpt is a guide for the traveller - a little more about the places, people or events mentioned in the passage.This is the sort of book that inspires a lust for travel, or becomes a treasured travel companion. It is one of the most 'lovingly' edited books I have ever read.Many anthologies contain an imbalance of male to female writers, and more men are travel writers, so this volume is particularly delightful. The editor elaborates on aspects of places that are particularly concerned with the cultural history of women. One of the reasons to produce a book using women writers is expressed by Susan Cahill (editor): " The women writers who love Italy take a different tone from what we hear in the travel notebooks of Dickens, Hawthorne or henry james. The women's narratives come across with a down-to-earth concreteness. They're irreverent, critical and anecdotal but never brittle, mean-spirited or smug at the Italians' expense....No narrator observes safely from a cool, aesthetic all-knowing distance. Rather, their affection for the place and people moves the current of the prose."I love this book. Maybe you will too.

An inspiring travelling companion

"Desiring Italy" became my inseparable travelling companion across Italy, after I found it by chance at a Roman bookstore. Not only it suggests special places to visit that are not always listed in traditional guides, it also makes them alive through their portrayal by literary masters (all women) that add their elegance, their sensitivity, their intelligence to that of the readers'. An added bonus was that I got to make their literary works real in my mind by following the steps of the characters in these magnificent settings (as Dorothea in "Middlemarch", for example).

The closest thing to being born an "Italian"!

Despite the dated "age" of many of the stories, Desiring Italy really does transport the reader both to Italy and, in many instances, back in time. It does an excellent job of portraying a land that has retained much of the excitement and enchantment felt thoroughout the ages, despite the passage of time. From the grandeur of Rome to the sights and sounds and smells of Tuscany, the richness of the North to the poverty of the South, the elegance of modern times to the ravages of war - the reader is bombarded with all aspects of this fantastic country.

revealing, enchanting, complex, seductive

Crossing the dark waters from Venice on route to the Lido, I watched a woman so intent upon her reading that she seemed oblivious to the haunting beauty visible in all directions. As we slowed in our approach to the landing area, I asked her what she was reading. It was Desiring Italy, she said, given to her by her mother in anticipation of this trip. I recorded it in my journal and it was the first book that I bought upon arriving home. Written by a group of women writers, it is a joyous celebration of all things Italian. It evokes cultural traditions, artistic impressions and history and lyrically describes the glories of the places that you visit. How fortunate the traveler who has this book as a traveling companion. Just as Venice's twisting alleyways and canals create a desire for roving, so does this anthology lure you to a restlessness and passion for "la dolce vita". The autobiographical slant resonates with how Italy has imprinted itself in the hearts and souls of the women who arite of it in this book.
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