Back in 1997, Frances Mayes took readers to Tuscany in her bestselling book Under the Tuscan Sun, her writing really captured being in Italy and building a life for herself in a foreign country. With her latest book Under Magnolia, Mayes brings readers to where she was trying to escape from – the past of her Southern childhood. In this book Mayes confronts her past, taking readers inside her tumultuous childhood in a 1940s South, so think eccentric family members, tradition, big houses, hot summers and lots of food.
Mayes’ parents had a volatile relationship fueled by passion, hostility and alcohol. Her father became ill at a relatively young age, but lingered on through many of Mayes’ high school days. Once he died, her mother became more aimless, under the thumb of her father-in-law who cut her off from much of the money and spending she was used to. Mayes spent her childhood feeling different from her girly sisters, but soon seemed to blend her intelligence with a southern girlish flair. It is this young girl who tries to escape her family bonds off at college.
I wasn’t really certain what to expect and I have to say I greatly enjoyed this book. It had been so long since I read Under the Tuscan Sun, I really didn’t remember all that much about Mayes, but it didn’t matter. You don’t need to know who Mayes is to enjoy her story, which is told in vignettes. Aside from Mayes lovely writing, her stories were charming, sad, funny – a whole mix. There were some times that I got a little lost in the timeline, but once I fell back into the storytelling, I really didn’t care. I was just happy to have such a wonderful storyteller take me on her journey.
** I received this book (an uncorrected proof) from the publisher for review. **