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This book is a lush and beautiful memoir of a very special house and a superb re-creation of a bygone era.
In 1967, veteran travel writer Eric Newby and his heroic wife, Wanda, fulfilled their dream of a return to life in the Italian hills where they first met during World War II. But this fulfillment would not come easy. The dream materialised in the form of I Castagni ('The Chestnuts'), a small, decrepit farmhouse with no roof, an abandoned septic tank and its own indigenous wildlife reluctant to give up their home. But in the foothills of the Apuan Alps on the border of Liguria and Northern Tuscany, this ramshackle house would soon become a hub of love, friendship and activity.
Whether recounting dangerous expeditions through Afghanistan or everyday life in a country house, Newby's talent shines through as one of the foremost writers of the comic travel genre. Full of Newby's sharp wit and good humour, A Small Place in Italy returns, 20 years later, to the life of Newby's much-cherished classic, Love and War in the Apennines. It lovingly recounts the quickly disappearing lifestyle of the idiosyncratic locals and the enduring friendships they forge, whether sharing in growing their first wine harvest as novices or frying poisonous mushrooms for a feast.
''Newby is an incomparable, shrewd and witty travel writer...immensely enjoyable.'' (John Mortimer, Mail on Sunday)
''Eric Newby must rank as one of the foremost travel writers of our age. Among his skills lies the ability to carry the reader with him on the most varied of journeys...a sequel to his 1971 classic, Love and War in the Apennines...[Newby's] good humour, and his loving eye for a way of life now disappearing, makes it a sterling contribution to that very particular shelf of English literature, describing life as lived among the Italians.'' (Hugh Carless, Guardian)
''A jovial account of living in Tuscany.'' ( Literary Review)
''[Newby's] book is cheerful, informative and often very funny.'' ( Times Literary Supplement)
''There is a deep respect for human personality here, and a wealth of information scrupulously and precisely retailed.'' ( Daily Telegraph)
''Beautifully written. Full of wisdom, humour and humanity, Newby is touching on the poignancy of life, its fleeting pleasures and ultimate, inevitable loss.... He is a perceptive interpreter of our dreams.'' (Sunday Express)
''Newby goes into satisfying detail about the people, the food and the landscape, and the house itself takes a central role in the book...by observing the details of his surroundings with clarity and understanding, he gives the reader a gentle picture of a pleasant Arcadia.'' ( Wanderlust)
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A small disappointment in Audible
Maybe Eric served as muse to the more Disneyfied Peter Mayle. Both have created a superficial and sentimental vision of an Englishman's adventures abroad. Johnny Foreigner is either diamond geezer or semi- lovable rogue. This is probably too generous to the manipulative marketing manoeuvring of Mayle, and too unkind to Newby, but the nexus is valid. Now that Middle England decamps to Tuscany for holidays and retirements, it is inevitable that we latch onto Newby and ilk as culpable trendsetters.
- Sarah Centrella
Too slow for me
This story just never picked up for me. It was also hard to get into because of the narration which made it extra slow. Couldn’t get into it or finish it.
1 person found this helpful
- Thandi Lamprecht
This is a lovely, short and sweet book. Listening to it feels like you’re listening to the author reminisce about his time in Italy over a long lazy lunch. The perfect antidote to our current time, so full of anxiety and stress. I really enjoyed this book. I just wish it was longer.