Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag?

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

See My Reading for all my other reviews at jessiecahalin.com/my-reading/

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Originally posted 2017-04-22 09:37:05.

Meeting Jane Austen

Today, I attended the Bennet household. Alas, Elizabeth was not at home. I was rather shocked to be greeted by her father, Mr Bennet. I did not see a servant.

Apparently, Mr Bennet had taken refuge from the house as there was a quarrel afoot. He was a pleasant enough fellow but a little shabby.

Finally, he asked the parlour maid to show me into the library. Strangely, every book on the shelves has been penned by a Jane Austen. I was most impressed with a book entitled, ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

I made a note of some words:

‘I declare there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!…When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if it does not have an excellent library.’

Lost in Austen’s books, I read until the clock struck four and my stomach rumbled. Venturing into the corridor, surprised that the house was silent, I decided to depart.  A Miss Austen opened the door and insisted on my company. She informed me that Mr Bennet lives in her imagination, but he had been seen loitering on the doorstop on many occasions.

Amused by my breeches, Miss Austen invited me to take tea with her. She smiled when I explained they are cropped trousers. We sat in a very modest parlour.  The maid served tea and a buttered apple tart.  Delighted that her books had made me forget time, Miss Austen commented that. ‘…for my own part, if a book is written well, I always find it too short.’

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and her books remain popular.  It is a delight to own a beautiful copy of the books.  However, it never fails to amaze me that it is now possible to download the timeless stories for free.

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Find a compartment labelled ‘do not disturb’ in my handbag

Just for the Holidays

Sue Moorcroft

A book about a midlife crisis and teenagers but the book had me at helicopter pilot! 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.

As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse.  It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever.  This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents.  In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown.  However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed.  You will also crave some expensive chocolate.

Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH.  One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first.  It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?

The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat.  Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events.  The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject.   Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.

Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.

A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read!  Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-20 08:28:52.

The Old Friend in my Handbag

Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.

I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me.  Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.

This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman.  Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.

Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.

 

Drinkwater books are like my old friends.  I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.

I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.

Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-03 19:40:28.

An Infuriating Addition to my Handbag

Yuki Chan in Brontë Country 

 Mick Jackson

 

This was an oddly infuriating and fascinating book.  I liked the character of Yuki and the bizarre insight into her world. 

I bought the book because I like the Bronte books, especially Wuthering Heights, and expected to find a kindred spirit and some insight .  At first, I was furious with comments such as:

‘In Japan, an old house like this would have been flattened and rebuilt half a dozen time, along with every other building in the town.’

 

 

Please the full review on My Reading page.

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-01 16:43:55.

Cramming my bag full of Angela Petch’s books and her lovers of Italian

Angela Petch 

 

Books in my Handbag is delighted to welcome the inspirational Angela Petch to the Chat Room

‘I’m inquisitive about different cultures and people. Writers are usually nosy, I think.’

Angela Petch was born in Germany, brought up in Italy and England, worked in Amsterdam, Sicily and Tanzania, East Africa. It is no wonder that she is ‘inquisitive about people and culture’. We can also thank Angela’s late father for introducing her to Italy, and I feel certain that he would have been proud of her writing.  Her colourful life is reflected in her colourful writing pallet.  Angela is sensitive, funny and creative: the perfect qualities for a writer

Angela has published ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’.  Currently, she is working on the frolics and escapes of ‘Mavis and Dot’- need I say more?

Always full of joie de vivre, Angela insisted that we open a bottle of Prosecco before we commenced the chat.  The sun was shining and butterflies dancing in the Italian garden as we commenced the conversation.

I adore ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’, but please capture your novel in forty words…

Now and Then in Tuscany is a historical narrative which oozes love for Italy and its culture.

The saga of three generations of a Tuscan family which recalls recent hardships and traditions of country life, too easily forgotten in today’s affluent and comfortable Europe.

Absolutely, these elements were beautifully presented in the novel. Now here’s another challenge, read me an extract that captures the essence of your book.

“The ancient wheel beside the convent door stood waiting … like the mouth of a hungry beast, ready for me to place the baby in its wooden drum and push it to the inside of the orphanage.”

You paint the experiences and emotions with words and tell a heart-breaking yet beautiful story. What do the reviewers say about your 5* novel?  Angela searched through the Amazon reviews while I ate crostini. 

This is no disappointment! What-happened-next books are so often disappointing. After the enchanting ‘Tuscan Roots’ (Angela Petch’s first novel set in Tuscany) I was almost afraid to read on. I needn’t have worried. This new book, which continues the story of Anna and Francesco Starnucci, like its predecessor blends a modern-day story with family history in an intricate weaving of now and then. Once again, the author’s love of the landscape and people of this beautiful region shine through, but this is far from being a mere travelogue. Angela Petch is an inspired storyteller who knows how to blend in a touch of mystery to keep the reader guessing.

Reviewer: Perdisma on 13 May 2017

Fascinating people and places. It reminds me in many ways (though it’s much less relentlessly tragic!) of “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, the prize-winning film by Ermanno Olmi – it has the same intensely imagined and exquisitely detailed recreation of a lost way of life. The photographs are part of this too – at first sight they’re just grainy little black and white images, but each one explains and is explained by the text, so that the more you read the more alive they seem, like Facebook pages from a hundred years ago.
Reviewer:  Rose on Amazon 11 May 2017

Beautifully written and researched. This is a beautifully written and researched family saga that spans three generations of an Italian family. Giuseppe comes from a poor village in Tuscany where the rhythm of life is set by the Catholic Church and the menfolk’s annual winter pilgrimage to warmer winter grazing land for the sheep… The book is full of a subtle yearning. The prose is evocative. The historical narrative is impressively authentic and riven with the author’s love of her subject.

By CA reviews on 7 May 2017

I am not surprised that you have received such accolades that all are all genuinely inspired by your storytelling.  The book has been a labour of love so how did you feel when you had finished the book?

I felt a mixture of relief and sadness when I had finished writing the book. This book took me five years to research and write. At times, it was an agonising process. I struggled with the balance between history and narrative, fearing that my desire to include details about the era was pushing the plot out of shape. At first, I listened to the reactions of too many Beta readers and grew despondent and confused. But I wanted desperately to give birth to “Now and Then in Tuscany”, as I felt it was a period of history that needed to be recorded. I had help from a professional editor in the end.

It is so reassuring to hear that such a great book is the result of a challenging journey.  Do you miss the characters?

I still miss my main character, Giuseppe. He is so firmly placed in the location where we live in Tuscany that I’m sure I catch glimpses of him every now and again as he strides along the mule track.

Two weeks ago, we ate in the old stone house that I had imagined was his. I’m sure he was sitting in a corner by the stove, listening to our conversation and smiling wryly at the way we enjoyed the meal so much: our friend had recreated a peasant’s meal of nettle soup and frittata prepared with the tips of Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We enjoyed it as if it were a delicacy. But he would have eaten these ingredients out of necessity.

Would you like any of your characters to read the book, or maybe there is someone else that you have in mind?

My father, Kenneth Sutor, who died twenty six years ago. He introduced his three young children to Italian culture in the 1960’s, when he relocated to Rome to work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I still have his 1956 edition of Hachette’s World Guide to Italy that he carried in his pocket for our excursions. Every Sunday he would take us to Mass and afterwards treat the family to a slap-up meal in a simple trattoria. Then, out would come his little blue book and we would be guided round the Villa d’Este or the Via Appia Antica, Colosseum, Subiaco, Assisi…He refused to have us penned up in an apartment in the centre of Rome and found us a ramshackle villa on the outskirts of Rome. The garden was stuffed with Roman statues, orange trees and bordered by vineyards and peach groves. How could I, as an impressionable seven year old, fail to fall in love with Italy?  He was self-educated. Today he would have enjoyed a university education but his family were not wealthy enough to support him. I remember him often engrossed in a history book, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose.

I know you can’t say, but I wonder if I can sense your father in Giuseppe…  I am sure that your father would have been so proud of your book.

I would have loved to see him read my books. Undoubtedly, he would have pointed out the warts but I think he might have been proud of me too. He loved Italy and, on my mother’s request, I scattered his ashes on Italian soil.

I don’t need to be convinced but why should I keep your book in my handbag?

If you are the type of person who recognises that understanding the past helps towards an understanding of the future…

If you want to explore a beautiful and little-known corner of Eastern Tuscany…

If you want to read the story of a young boy with a big heart who overcomes adversity…

If you want to weep and smile at Tuscan love stories…

Then, find a space in your handbag for “Now and Then in Tuscany”.

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook? Angela poured herself another glass of Prosecco and wiped the condensation from the glass. There was a distinct look of mischief in Angela’s eyes as she read the following line:

“…a fluttering of fans from menopausal worshippers, in a church smelling of candle wax and cold, cold stone…”

(For an idea for my WIP, “The Adventures of Mavis and Dot”).

What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?

Getting noticed. To be read in a competitive world where thousands of self-published authors are jostling for space. Engaging with social media has been my biggest challenge but it is the springboard. For a child of the ‘50’s, it doesn’t come easy. I was advised to set up a Twitter account. “Look for like-minded people,” was the advice from a writer friend. So, I typed “Lovers of Italian” in the search bar. I shall leave it to your imagination about the photos of gigolos and semi-naked escorts that popped up. Learning curve is the phrase that is constantly on the tip of my independent author’s tongue.

What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Just write. Get it down, capture your words before they fly away.

Afterwards you will have to check and chop, but just write first. In order to have something to work on, just write. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I agree with you!  Just let the writing flow and banish writer’s block.  Does the countryside inspire you to write more than the city environment?

I like cities in small doses – for the theatre, concerts, art galleries, museums and monuments – but my heart sings in the countryside. I have played tennis all my life but at the moment I need a shoulder operation, so I can’t. Instead, I go for wonderful walks in the mountains. Better than a sweaty gym, any day.

Following the interview, I meandered down an ancient track. I reflected that we are all influenced by the past and the present. And I pondered whether anyone would make a wonderful art house film of Now and Then in Tuscany – the setting is there waiting to be captured on film. 

 

Please see My Guests for all the authors that I have interviewed.

 

Originally posted 2017-06-17 07:00:18.

Wine tasting in Blighty

Au revoir France and goodbye ferry. Hello, White Cliffs of Dover. Where are the bluebirds?

Have you guessed? We stayed in Blighty for our holidays. But I feared that we would miss the sunshine and the dégustation. A ‘Blightycation’ ahead of us, we visited: castles, gardens, castles, seaside towns, pubs and yet more castles.

 

Barnsole Vineyard

Travelling the roads, in search of another castle, I spotted a brown sign for a vineyard. Barnsole Vineyard was perfectly situated in a picturesque Kentish village. The entrance to the bijou vineyard took us straight to the vines. Alors! We were en France. We were invited to sit on a terrace surrounded by flowers. My mind wondered back to those many, many heady days of wine tasting en France. I wanted to say, ‘Bonjour. Dégustation s’il vous plait?’ But my schoolgirl French wasn’t required. The only headache that threatened was from the wine, rather than trying to dredge up my language skills.

 

Proprietors of Barnsole Vineyard

The proprietor gave us a warm welcome. She was passionate about the vineyard and keen to point out that ‘nature throws its challenges’ at the winemaking process. This vineyard oversees the whole process from the grape to your glass. Despite the hard work, the proprietors were relaxed. They had learned the art from the previous Polish owners. On the day that we visited, their friends were bottling the sparkling wine. I felt like I had walked into a scene of the many romance novels that I have read. However, I was concerned that the lovely proprietor was spitting out the wine onto the grass. I didn’t like to comment at the time!

We were welcomed with a tray full of bottles to taste. No complaints were heard from me as I wasn’t driving. The only hint of Blighty was the cool breeze that threatened to bring a few drops of rain.

The wine was delicious! We enjoyed the fresh citrus flavours of the white and another had a slightly floral taste. The red wine tasted of berries. My tasting senses were working! According to the experts the Red Reserve 2013 had ‘redcurrants and sense of delicious spice’ while the Recheinsteiner was ‘complex with a great body’: I don’t remember him but I was right about the berries. We also bought some sparkling English wine for Christmas. I did feel a warm glow from the effects of the wine tasting. However, I could walk in a straight line to the car. Feel free to congratulate me on this because I concentrated with all my might! Apparently, I am lined up for an award.

Nodding off on the journey home, I did see the bluebirds. This Francophile may have been converted. We will all be delighting in ‘Blightycations’ very soon – just you wait and see. Meanwhile, I am thinking of organising a pre-Christmas wine tasting celebration. Would you care to join me?

 

Please see all the articles in my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-12 07:00:06.