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A Year in the World
Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

Book Review

book cover A Year in the World
Frances Mayes
Hardcover,  422  pages
Broadway Books / Random House
US $26.00, CAN $36.00

Frances Mayes is best known for her books about Tuscany--most notably Under the Tuscan Sun, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two and a half years and was made into a movie that starred Diane Lane. She spends much of the year in Cortona, Italy with her husband, the poet Edward Kleinschmidt Mayes.

A few years ago, Ms. Mayes had an epiphany during a trip to Alghero, Sardinia. She asked her husband:

"What if we didn't go home? What if we just kept travelling? The European writers always had their Wanderjahr, their year of wandering in their youth. I'd like one of those, even at this late date."

And so it happened: She and Ed hit the road (along with a few airline and ferry routes), visiting cities and towns in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, France, Britain, Greece, and Turkey in the course of their travels.

The resulting book, A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller, is a personal memoir that combines travel narrative with food commentary, occasional garden descriptions, and enough literary and historical observations to remind the reader of the author's earlier career as a creative-writing professor. And while the book may not be as appealing to the philistine reader as, say, a work of travel narrative by the funny Bill Bryson or the surly Paul Theroux, it's highly readable and bears the stamp of the author's personality. It's the kind of book that makes the reader think: "I'd love to meet that person" or, better yet, "I'd love to be a guest at that person's dinner table."

To get a taste of what A Year in the World has to offer, read the short excerpts on the next three pages (which are labeled with my teaser subheads, not the author's). To learn more about Ms. Mayes and her books, visit the Frances Mayes Web site at

Next page: Excerpt 1: Flying with Italians

A Year in the World, by Frances Mayes:
Book review
Excerpt 1: Flying with Italians
Excerpt 2: An English house of horrors
Excerpt 3: Savoring Seville