This is a lovely book, and I do believe it's the first time in my life I have ever come to the end of a book and flipped right back to page 1 and started over. I rarely read a book twice, never mind twice in a row. There is some beautiful writing here, lots of talk of food and countryside, and some really insightful stuff about love and friendship and personality.
The American author and her Italian husband take up residence in a tiny Tuscan village after having lived for three years in Venice. One of the locals they meet is an older man they call the Duke, who "adopts" them and they quickly become good friends. The Duke compares Marlena to his mother, saying "Life was hard for her too." Marlena responds, "But I don't think life is hard." His answer is so piercing that I'm going to record it here so I don't forget it. I can completely relate to this. He says:
"Of course not. Not now, anyway. Not with all the 'adjustments' you've made over time. My mother made similar adjustments. For her, life was too garishly lit, too big and too distant, and so she srewed up her eyelids and shortened the foreground. Like an impressionist painter, she rubbed the juts smooth, created her own diffusion, her own translucence. She saw life as if by the light of a candle. Nearly always she seemed to be wandering about in an elegant sort of defiance. Holding tight to her secrets. Like you do. And she thought everything could be solved with a loaf of bread. Like you do."
A description of two women who did successfully what I've tried so hard to do lately, whether that's a good thing or not. I guess we all put our spin on things - create our own diffusion to make things viable for ourselves. I can especially relate to shortening the foreground - the opposite of being far-seeing I suppose, but then who's necessarily to say that one is always better than the other. Having waited all my life for the grand, important and impressive things to happen, I've become more attached to the small and everyday in this last year.