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The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria Hardcover – December 21, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Following A Thousand Days in Venice and A Thousand Days in Tuscany, de Blasi's new book, set in Orvieto, is ostensibly about her effort, with her Italian husband, first to find, then to renovate and at last to move into the ballroom of a splendid, dilapidated medieval palazzo. The renovation becomes an engrossing portrait of the town and some of its inhabitants. Nothing goes according to plan or schedule, but de Blasi uses the years (literally) of waiting to explore the life of the town, centering on the home-based caffé-kitchen of her friend Miranda and the caffé's patrons. De Blasi's exuberance and her American disregard of Italian class distinctions at times distress her new friends and also her husband, but eventually, almost by accident, she pulls off a coup of diplomatic détente just after they finally set up housekeeping in the palazzo. Vvid writing and an affectionate appreciation of the sounds, scenes and flavors of Italy, as well as of the somewhat eccentric Umbrians she meets, will charm lovers of that country. (Jan. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In previous books having chronicled her emigration from St. Louis to Venice and her subsequent sojourn in Tuscany, chef and writer de Blasi pulls up stakes again and decamps to Umbria. Her first encounters with locals leave her wondering if Orvieto really is for her. Umbria, de Blasi contends, differs from other Italian provinces because it touches neither the sea nor another country. Its central location gives it characteristics of both north and south. Despite Umbria's singular physiography, Orvietans are even more guarded and distant than the neighboring Tuscans. After a few false starts, de Blasi and spouse settle into a decrepit palazzo of uncertain vintage. The owners promise renovation, but handshake agreements rarely turn out as either party might expect. The chef in de Blasi rebels at the compact kitchen with its tiny refrigerator, single-burner stove, and multiple microwave ovens. But the land's charms counterbalance these shortcomings. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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Otherwise, this is a beautiful book. I was expecting another thin offering written by an enthusiastic ex-pat with marginal writing skills and was pleasantly surprised to get pulled into a skillfully crafted narrative. In short, the author and her husband search for a home in Umbria and find it, but the struggle to make it their own is long one. Along the way they bring together a set of people from different classes of Umbrian society and ply them with food, color, and music. Also, along the way, the author did just what a good author should—she made me want to be there.
De Blasi is a first class observer of people and her descriptions of them are rich and earthy. She, herself, comes across as mildly eccentric and happy about it. She is willing to reveal some of her own personal insecurities, but does not dwell on them, which i found to be an endearing trait. As the work progresses, she introduces other mild eccentrics, each with their own beauty, scars, and weaknesses. In the end, she brings the reader to a dinner party in their remodeled home (the ancient ballroom of a noble family near the duomo in Orvieto) and seats them around a table with pineapple legs. Around that table are a collection of persons that she was warned could not be brought together in Umbria...ooops.
All in all, a good read.
Moving on to her earlier book about Venice.
I was totally captivated by Marlena's struggle to fit in with her new neighbors. Fernando seems to provide minimal assistance. Also thrilled that Barlozzo appears in this book - he is such an endearing character!
This book brought me to tears several times. Few books compel me to keep reading without a break until they are over. This was definitely one of those books. Days later I can close my eyes and picture scenes from the book, her writing is so vivid. My guess is that Marlena and Fernando will make another move before too long - they are both restless characters. Even if they stay put for a while, surely the story will be just as riveting. I eagerly look forward to the next chapter in their journey