Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spend a Little Time in Europe This Summer, It Will Do You Good

If you feel the need for a break from the chaos that seems to be infecting the United States right now, why not take a little book break and head to Europe. I've spent the last few week in Rome and Paris with these wonderful travel companions. They made my heart sing.

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Before he won the Pulitzer for his amazing novel, "All The Light We Cannot See," Anthony Doerr won a fellowship to begin researching his future book in Rome. He and his wife had just become parents to twin boys but, young and brave, they took on the task of relocating to Rome with the bambinos in tow and their adventures resulted in this delightful, loving memoir/parenting guide/travel brochure.

The Doerr's "Four Seasons in Rome" will renew your love for the eternal city if you've been, and whet your whistle if you have not. There's nothing like strolling the alleys and markets of Trastevere with twins in the carriage to bring out the best in the Italians, swiftly breaking down cultural and language barriers.

The Doerr's trust their gut instincts in choosing a babysitter, a young immigrant who soon becomes part of the family, and manage to escape their tiny apartment for a quiet morning in the Sistine Chapel. Weekends involve train excursions out to the hill towns of Umbria - ahhh, Orvieto! And when his wife is felled by a bout of exhaustion and dehydration, they manage the healthcare system with aplomb and, by the way, without paying a dime.

I listened to the audio book of this story which was read by the author, a thoroughly engaging young man whose love for his family and his joy in the use of language shine through on every page.

From Rome I went to Paris where I spent a day with author Antoine Lauraine whose little gem of a novel, only 159 pages, introduces readers to bookshop owner Laurent Letellier and Le Cahier Rouge or "The Red Notebook."
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Called a piece of Gallic whimsy by one reviewer, I found this book to be a charming romance and an uplifting, yes, whimsical novel about finding love in the most unusual of places, think "Love Actually" with some "Sleepless in Seattle" thrown in.
Laurent's daily routine is thrown for a loop when he finds a gorgeous mauve handbag carelessly thrown on a garbage heap. The quality of the purse leads him to believe that it should not have been discarded and, upon opening it, he realizes that the owner's belongings are all intact, except of course for the money that was taken.
After an attempt to get the local constabulary involved - they are all too busy for a purse theft - Laurent takes the bag home and empties the contents hoping to find a clue to the owner. And here is where the author raises the level of his book far above the ordinary. In intricate detail he describes each item that Laurent retrieves from the bag, large and small. From a tube of lipstick to an autographed novel by the reclusive writer Patrick Modiano, Laurent begins to fall in love with the woman he comes to know through the things she finds important enough to keep in her purse.
As Laurent, with the help of his equally romantically inclined daughter, search Paris for the owner of the mauve bag we readers become completely invested in the outcome. If someone hasn't purchased the movie rights to this delightful little novel about knowing and being known then they have missed the boat. 


Linda said...

You convinced me; I must read (or listen) to both of these. If you haven't read "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk" yet, I think you should. You'll fall in love all over again with New York, just like you did with Rome. And wait until you meet Lillian.

Sallyb said...

I DID read Lillian and you're so right. I loved her!