As I mentioned a the end of last week’s Friday Folio, I have been querying agents for a new book I want to write, and part of the process is telling them what very successful book you think yours will be like. At the same time, I was also reading A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi. I’m guessing it was pitched as the next Under the Tuscan Sun, which was Book 34 last year. It even has recipes.
Good marketing if that’s the case, though I don’t think this book is quite at the level.
De Blasi is an American chef and writer who traveled to Italy often to write about food. She meets a stranger (who she often calls The Stranger) while in Venice, and he convinces her to give up her home and her restaurant in the U.S. and move with him to Venice to be his wife — right then and there. Despite her friends telling her no, she does it anyway.
I picked up some bad vibes from the Stranger, including but not limited to he seems to dominate her life, and tries to make her a kept woman, so much of the book is about her wandering around Venice while he’s at work. As far as I can tell, they’re still together (and she’s written subsequent books about their life in Italy), but I as I read, I stayed firmly on the side of the friends who told her not to go. She didn’t even invite her children to the wedding (blaming timing of when they could get the church), which seemed odd.
But I’ll give Di Blasi this credit: she does write beautifully, and I marked some of the passages to refer to later, even if she sometimes lumps segments of Venice’s population into a monolith. She writes: “They are Venice’s downstairs maids and butlers, ones content with their portion in this life, descendants of Venetian women who never wove pearls in their hair, descendants of Venetian men who never wore satin breeches or sipped China tea at Florian.”
Really? They’re all like that? Italy’s population isn’t booming, and it took the pandemic to reverse some of Italy’s brain drain. The Italian phrase for brain drain, by the way, is la fugea dei cervelli. Literal translation: the flight of brains, as I learned in my Italian class over the weekend. It’s enough of a thing that they had us newbies stumbling around the language learn it.
So: mixed feelings. I did finally book a flight to Italy for later this year, and Venice is on my list so I’m glad I’ll have some sort of reading about it under my belt. I also found this book in a Little Free Library, so it’s not like I’m out much except a few evenings of reading time. Someone in my neighborhood has also been on a “reading about Italy” and I’m grateful to them for sharing the wealth!
Nail polish: Nice Set of Pipes by OPI.
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