When I started reading the book, I imagined the story line would match up with this:
It did not. Other than it had the same name, set in Italy, and about a woman revamping a home. The details are not at all the same. In the book, she is married and comes to Italy with her husband. While they do end up hiring people to help them with the work, she and her husband do a lot of the labor alongside the workers. It was not at all what I expected. Don't get me wrong.... I love the movie -- Diane Lane is one of my favorite actresses. The book was great as well. I don't normally like books that include foreign languages stuck throughout the book, but Mayes does a great job of explaining what each word in Italian means rather than assuming you know the language or want to check Google translate every time a new word shows up.
I love and miss Italy. I could understand a lot of what she was saying in the book based on my own experiences in this fascinating country. "I have known him two summers and this is the first personal information we have exchanged" (65). It takes time to get to know the people of Italy.
I appreciate Mayes' style of writing, and I'm pretty sure we could be great friends. "I spread my books, cards, and notepaper around me and indulge in the rare art of writing letters to friends. A second indulgence goes straight back to high-school days - consuming a plate of brownies and a Coke while copying paragraphs and verses I like into my notebook.... Hours go by without the need to speak" (76).
"The house protects the dreamer; the houses that are important to us are the ones that allow us to dream in peace" (86).
Mayes points out three things that are essential to know if you plan to go to Italy: ferragosto (186), which is the fact that almost everything is closed for a month long vacation for Italians in August, passegiata hour, where you will find "hoards of people mingling, visiting, strolling, running errands" (234-235) and siesta (275), that beautiful part of the afternoon when stores close so people can rest, watch TV, or just enjoy being together.
She spent Christmas in Italy and described it as follows: "Is this much happiness allowed? I secretly asked myself.... Many Christmases in my adult life have been exquisite, especially when my daughter was a child. A few have been lonely. One was very rocky. Either way, the season of joy comes with a primitive urge that runs deep into the psyche" (214).
You can check out her website.