Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: 'A Zany Slice of Tuscany' by Ivanka Di Felice

Canadian born author Ivanka Di Felice is a writer living in Tuscany. After reading her debut book – A ZANY SLICE OF ITALY – this reviewer reported that the author ‘proves herself a quick witted, very well schooled writer who brings to us, her readers, one of the more lighthearted - no make that looney and zany - collections of ruminations about Italy (which happens to be this reader's favorite place to visit!) before the public today. No, make that any day.’ Ivanka followed that tremendously popular book with MY ZANY LIFE: GROWING UP IN A ROOMING HOUSE and now she bounces us along with A ZANY SLICE OF TUSCANY.

Ivanka is getting to know her readers and offers a little Preface before diving into the meat of the book – ‘First, let me assure you that we are not on Canada’s Most Wanted list, and we can return at any time. We have chosen a life in Italy because the pros far outweigh the cons. Italy is legendary for its fabulous food and wine, glorious scenery and art. To boot, the people are generous, hospitable, hardworking, and, let’s admit, beautiful. I always say that “Italy has it all, and if you have never visited, you should.” I write humor and thus have chosen to write about the quirky situations that we encounter here, simply because they are funny. So please read my book with a sense of humor and know that I wrote it with one.’

Ivanka and her husband David open their hearts through Ivanka’s recollections and perceptions - “We answered Italy’s call and moved here. Zio is still alive and continues to drive like an escaped lunatic. I am that much wiser, thus, when we visit Zio “in Rome,” I willingly hop onto the overcrowded, smelly bus in the stagnant summer heat. Zia, in her eighties, still cooks as if she’s catering a wedding feast and is no less intent that we finish it all off. Regardless, we will never forget their hospitality and continue to visit them. Sometimes when we are in “Rome,” we even get to see a sight or two. Yet our hearts belong to Tuscany. The old farmhouse we live in has grown to be home. I now scoff at d├ęcor magazines depicting perfectly matched furniture and uniform floors. I have come a long way from the woman I was when we first rented this house. I’d almost wept when the “new” (in Tuscan time, twenty years is not considered old) dishwasher was delivered. The color was off by a few shades and didn’t match the ancient stove. The locals looked at me as if I were crazy, when, teary-eyed, I pointed out the four-shade difference. Yet I have grown and have created a new version of “mix and match.” Bachelors around the world would be quick to patent our floor, because the speckled granite refuses to reveal whether it is freshly washed or not, and don’t ever drop a coin on it—you will never find it. Our guests continue to enjoy privileged views of glorious sunsets—albeit only from their bathroom window—as the hilltop town of Castiglion Fiorentino sparkles in the distance. Our two hens, Roberta and Barbara, happily scavenge in the fields, unless David is outside. Then they shadow him, never straying more than a few inches away. He spends more time with them than with me some days.

What follows is one of the more satisfying books about Italy, and Tuscany in particular, and all the joy, frustrations, relationships, and fun that life Italianne offers. Ivanka serves it up with warmth and sensitivity and with huge dollops of humor. Some books we read for intellectual reasons. This book we read as a tonic for finding humor in just about everything we encounter. Bravissima! Grady Harp, October 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.