2018 Reviews · contemporary fiction · culture · Italy · new release · women's fiction

New Release Book Review: Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

Title: Women in Sunlightwomen in sunlight small

Author: Frances Mayes

Published: April 2nd 2018

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 448

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Culture, Italy, Women’s Fiction

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

The new novel from the bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of four American women who become unexpected friends when they move to a beautiful villa in Tuscany.

She watches from her terrazza as the three American women carry their luggage into the stone villa down the hill. Who are they, and what brings them to this Tuscan village so far from home?
Kit Raine, an American writer living in the small Italian town of San Rocco, is working on a biography of her close friend, the novelist Margaret Merrill. 

But her work is waylaid by the arrival of three women – Julia, Camille and Susan – all of whom have recently formed a friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. For Susan, the most fearless of the three, has enticed them to subvert expectations of a staid retirement in the States by taking on the lease of a big, beautiful house in Tuscany . . .

Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, a spirited lust for life, and a fierce determination to thrive.

With Kit’s friendship and guidance, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long-forgotten – with drastic and unforeseeable results. 

My review:

If you can’t get to Italy in a hurry, the next best thing to a plane ticket to one of Europe’s most culturally rich locales is to pick up a Frances Mayes novel. The bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun fame returns with a fictional tale of Kit, a writer and expat, who has lived in the quaint Italian town of San Rocco for over a decade. Her life is disrupted in a gratuitous manner when three retirees from the US arrive and take up residence in the villa next door. Women in Sunlight is a rendition to the bonds of female friendship, all set to the breathtaking stage of the rich food, culture and famous cities of Italy.

For over a decade Kit Raine has been living the dream in San Rocco, Italy. A writer by trade, Kit has been trying to pen the biography of her close friend and mentor, novelist Margaret Merrill. Kit is hit with a curveball when three women arrive next door. The trio have recently formed a bond back in the states when they decided to trade plans to enter a retirement home in the US, for as year in a luxurious villa in Tuscany. As Kit helps these women find their feet in their new home, she is reminded of why she loves Italy so much. In just a year, each of these four women will enter a new phase in their lives, as their friendship thrives and at the same time, they fully immerse themselves in the Italian way of life.

Although I haven’t read a Frances Mayes book before, I enjoyed the film Under the Tuscan Sun,  which is based upon the same book title written by Mayes. Italy, and in particular Tuscany, remains on my travel bucket list. Even though I will not be embarking on a trip to this beautiful part of the world anytime soon, Frances Mayes quelled my longing for a trip to Italy with Women in Sunlight. For those readers who enjoy travel adventure style novels, this one will hit the spot.

Women in Sunlight is a piece of fiction, but there were times when I had to gently remind myself that I was not reading a biography or memoir.  Some areas of the novel were a little clunky for me and I struggled to obtain a firm grip on the changing perspectives of the book, which swapped from first to third person.  I would have preferred and felt more comfortable with Kit narrating, these sections of the narrative took my interest. The prose comes across as being quite literary, as there are many fleshed out descriptions of the rich colours and tastes of this novel.  What also struck me about Women in Sunlight, is that it is filled with many realistic descriptions of great tourist sites, cities, architecture, art, beautiful scenery, fine food and wine references. This is a sensory and culinary overload for the reader, especially if you love Italian cuisine. It is culturally rich and along with the frequent language insertions, Women in Sunlight almost reflected a guidebook of sorts to the region.

There a few message to be taken away from Women in Sunlight. Female friendship is one of the core themes of this novel, along with self discovery. As this is story focussed on women in their prime and later stages of their life, it reminds us that often the best is yet to come. I appreciated the carefree attitude and the willingness of the American retirees to abandon their safety and plans of life in the US, for a very different life in Italy. I admired their enthusiasm, strength and bravery. Likewise, Kit the established expat, is faced with a big life change as the book progresses and it was interesting to read about how she responds to this situation. I also enjoyed following Kit’s journey to get the biography of her mentor and friend Margaret off the ground.

Women in Sunlight is an intimate travel adventure style novel. Although the focus is on a more mature set of women, readers of any age will be sure to enjoy the journey each of these characters embarks on over the progression of the novel. The characters are a lively set and the way in which Women in Sunlight has been written helps the reader to feel like they are an extra travel companion. I enjoyed being welcomed into the fold of this close knit group.  One to escape to when you are dreaming of Italy!

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes was published on April 2nd 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Women in Sunlight, Frances Mayes visit here

*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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