Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

This book is exquisite, luminous, dazzling, poetic, enthralling. It is literature with a capital L. I almost feel as though it should be perfumed with a subtle yet intoxicating scent and cost at least $100 a page.

It's awfully, awfully well written and a vast pleasure to read. (These two things don't always go together you know.)

On the day Anthony and his wife came home from the Boise Idaho hospital with their newly born twins, he received a letter informing him he'd won the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (a prize he'd been unaware he was up for) which included a free apartment plus writing studio in Rome for an entire year, as well as a stipend to live on.

This book is the story of that year, an insomniac's diary of what it's like to be a new parent in a strange city in a foreign land, as well as what it's like to be an artist working, and sometimes failing to work, at your craft in such an exotic place. Snowfall in the coliseum, fresh fava beans at the greenmarket, a child's first step, 13 obelisks, white gloved policemen, a funeral at the Vatican, pediatricians who make housecalls on Vespas, Caravaggio, peacocks and parrots, Pliny, four-hour dinners, "hopelessly good antipasti"... it's all in there.

You'll adore this book if you:
- Are an armchair traveler yearning for the next best thing to actually being in Rome yourself.
- Are the parent of twin infants (although you won't have time to read it.)
- Want a behind-the-scenes look into the everyday life and creative process of an award-winning 30-something novelist.

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