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A Thousand Days in Venice
Marlena de Blasi
What it says on the back cover
What a delight – de Blasi portrays her adventure with a velvet touch, and instils the reader with a desire to jump on the next vaporetto!!
Susan Herrmmann Loomis, author ON RUE TATIN
De Blasi relates it all in a voice at once wordly and sensuous, unsentimental and aware of what it means to have such good fortune… She binds her love of Fernando to her love of food, like a bouquet garni , in one long delicious engagement running throughout this ode, from cappuccino and apricot pastry to pumpkin gnocchi in cream and sage.
What made me pick up this book
For those who are new at reading my blog I am a self confessed foodie. I have a bookcase and beyond home filled with books that relate to food whether it be in a form of a recipe book, a book on culture, a memoir such as this or some other thing that brings me to one of my favourite subjects. For seasoned readers I fell in love with the reviews, they sounded like they were literally eating and devouring something deliciously romantic whilst reading the book and I also wanted to be transported away with it.
When we flick open the inside sleeve (my own copy is a hardback edition) we are taken to the scene when Marlena meets her future husband Fernando for the first time which is in a cafe in the heart of Venice. Immediately he is struck by Marlena and he feels that she is most certainly “The One” for him and poor Marlena is caught off guard by this Venetian knowing full well that she is quite content with her life as it is as a mother and a divorced American chef. But then all of a sudden she is drawn to him and in time things develop between the couple. Marlena sells up, quits her job in the United States, says goodbye to her children and finds herself marrying the man she refers to her new husband as “The Stranger”. It reads like it is fiction yet it is not. Marlena’s story is how a woman can fall in love in Europe and still be happily married today.
Is this book worth buying?
It all depends. For those of you who love romance and are big on romantic adventures this could be a treat for you and for those of you who are foodies, the same principal applies. But if you neither a foodie nor a romantic you may find that this book drags a bit and although you may enjoy reading about the travel side of this book (another interest of mine) you may get stuck somewhere in this book and wonder when it may actually finish.
This book is without a doubt a book for those who love to learn about other cultures. It is seeped in romantic meals that Marlena cooks for her stranger both in America and in Venice. A book which has beautiful little quotes that Marlena uses to describe her life which are richly weaved into the story. “In those solitary evenings by my fire I found finely spun threads, a pattern, my own story. I opened up the kind of memory that feels like a wistful hankering for something lost or something that never was, I think most of us have it, this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up on a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. Hey don’t you see this? Do you see how big my pain is? We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting My pain’s bigger than your pain. It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power”.(De Blasi, p.56 A Thousand Days in Venice).
And that dear readers is what makes this book special. It is a rich dark memoir that leaves me seduced in the way that Marlena’s story is told. Maybe because it is Venice, maybe its because it is Northern Italy, it is romantic yes, tasteful yes, and one good read that will beg you for more of her recipes. The ones in the back of the book are a bit indulgent for some but it obviously made Fernando realise how much this woman stole his heart.