Friday, May 1, 2009

Annie Vanderbilt and her Olivetti

Wow! If people truly write what they know then Annie Vanderbilt, LCLS Reading Festival speaker, and author of The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti, has had a marvelously full life. Either that or she has a fantastic imagination. Even if I hadn't taken an immediate liking to the author (I did), I would have wanted to open her book just based on the cover. Having biked through the south of France, I was smitten by the colors, the buildings and the people who, contrary to what you may hear on Fox news, were a pure delight.

Madame Olivetti, as you may have surmised, is the old fashioned typewriter that accompanies Lily Crisp on her trip to the family "cottage" in France where she hopes to bare her soul to the sympathetic pages in the olivetti. Mourning the unexpected death of her husband Paul, she is looking to regroup and make amends for certain past indiscretions which were fulfilling when they occurred but have left deep wells of guilt in Lily's soul. Enter Yves, the contractor there to put the house back in order and, peut-etre, our Lily as well.

As Lily writes the memoir, for her eyes only, readers are treated to several love stories that seem honest and realistic, dating back several generations to couples from both Lily's and Paul's families. As a matter of fact, I'd say that one of the themes of the book is that true love is never perfect. Vanderbilt has a lush writing style, using words that paint big, lusty pictures in our heads. This book is ripe for a movie featuring a fabulous 50-something actress and not some ingenue. I'd hate to see it ruined the way Under the Tuscan Sun was. The joy of the thing is that Lily is a mature, experienced woman and all the more beautiful for it!

I'm off to Maryland and Massachusetts for a week. There's a pretty dreary forecast which means my time can be filled with reading and family gabbing. I'm obesessing over which books to take on the road and on the plane, like a druggy worried about where the next fix will come from. I'll very much miss the cd in my car, a supurb recording - great Scottish accents - of Kate Atkinson's When Will There be Good News. Whew! It's diabolical the way it begins so sweetly and slowly before degenerating into a first class mystery. More on that when I return.

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