Review | Women in Sunlight, Frances Mayes

35742912By the author of Under the Tuscan SunWomen in Sunlight is a beautiful, languorous story of three American women who lease a house in Tuscany, and their American expat neighbour who’s writing about a friend who died. I love that the story featured older women — the three friends met while touring a seniors residence and decided to go on an adventure in Tuscany rather than settle down, which is awesome. I love the riff on a second lease in life, and how it’s not so much that these women had miserable lives before, but rather than moving to Tuscany opened them up to new opportunities (e.g. one of the women decided to pursue a long-held, rarely-indulged interest in painting, and ended up discovering her gift for it). I also love how strong the friendship between the women are, even though they met only a short time before the move to Tuscany.

I also loved the depiction of Tuscany, how beautiful and magical the place seems and how much emphasis there is on slow living, good home cooking and spending time with neighbours. There are many scenes that feature meals, and in one memorable scene, one of the women notes that a neighbour paid for her coffee because that’s just how things go in Tuscany. The book makes me want to visit Tuscany and possibly live there for a while — it just seems like such a wonderful place to escape to.

The American expat neighbour writing about her friend is a less compelling character. Her story is strong enough in that we sympathize with her need to make sense of her friend’s death and also honour her friend’s life, but it doesn’t quite compare to the wonder and joy and complexity of emotions that the three older women brought.

I personally would have preferred this as a movie than a book, though I think that’s more about myself as a reader than about the book itself. I tend to prefer reading a faster paced plot, and found myself wanting to see the beautiful setting in person or on the screen rather than in my imagination. This story is slow and languorously told, which fits perfectly with the themes, but had me tuning out at times. I can just imagine loving a film version with actors like Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda just living their best life and enjoying all that Tuscany has to offer.

That being said, I admit that’s more about my personal taste as a reader than a critique of the book itself. I can already imagine other readers enjoying this more than I did, and can definitely picture this as a book club read.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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