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bellatuscanyTwo days and nine synopses to go. Man...

Well, this one, at least, I can make brief. I was pleasantly entranced by Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun this summer; it was a true appreciation of a new landscape and living according to the rhythms of nature, wrought in lushly beautiful prose. I took the opportunity, then, to read her next book, Bella Tuscany - which, it turns out, is less about making a home in the celebrated region and more about driving around Italy to shop and dine.

Unfortunately, Mayes falls into the trap that she deftly avoided with her first tale of moving abroad and buying an eight-figure manor: Bella Tuscany comes across as a celebration of wealth instead of nature. It still has choice moments, mind, but most of the book is preoccupied with where Mayes and her husband go, what they can buy, what's going on in their jobs, etc. Instead of learning to make accommodations for and appreciate an environment that moves on its own terms, Bella Tuscany is about how money enables Mayes et al. to be the masters of their domain. There's still plenty of beauty to be had  -  the author meets many memorable restaurateurs and artisans in her journeys  -  but Mayes's perspective is more self-absorbed; when she encounters along the road on Easter weekend some prostitutes she learns were lured from Algeria under false pretenses, she can only idly speculate that there were "one for each station of the cross, were there?" in a way intended to invite marvel at her perceptiveness but which elicited from me only an "oh, please." Perhaps still worth a look if you loved Tuscan Sun, but don't go in expecting much, and prepare to roll your eyeballs.

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