AN ITALIAN AFFAIR by Laura Fraser
Genre: Memoir, Travel
How Acquired: BookCrossing
Reading Began: March 1, 2005
Completed Reading: March 12, 2005
Overall Rating: Seven out of ten
Recommendation to others: This is really a woman’s book, centered around one woman’s journey back from heartbreak. The travel in the book is really just an extension of her own story, serving as a backdrop but not the purpose of the book.
Why I chose to read this book: I ran across this on Amazon, actually, and thought it sounded intriguing. I remember that Under the Tuscan Sun had recently been released as a movie, as well, so that probably contributed to my curiosity.
Other titles by this author: I understand she originally wrote travel stories for Salon.com, but I don’t see any other books under her name.
Comments: This book is an average read, quick in tone and engaging in the romance aspect of the story. The locales are enchanting, but I didn’t feel drawn to the various places described in the story as a result of Fraser’s writing. Still, there were not many moments where I was pulled away from the central story of the affair because of her travel musings. That’s a good sign.
The story is interesting enough: a woman in her mid-thirties, devastated by the collapse of her new marriage, seeks solace in Italy and finds a new romance altogether. What begins as an intense affair on an island, over a week’s time, eventually becomes a two-year long-distance romance in various places around the world. It is really the tale of a woman’s healing process as instigated by a married French professor whose lifestyle includes many such affairs and repeated rendez-vous. The woman’s struggle to keep perspective on the relationship, to remain clear that it is not for the future but only what she needs in the present, is somewhat secondary to the story in full. It is only at the end of the tale that the reader has a true sense of the toll this affair has taken on both the woman and the professor. But the end is satisfactory nonetheless.
I enjoyed An Italian Affair. I did struggle with the lifestyle of the married professor, but he was undeniably enchanting in many ways, so Fraser’s decisions are fully understandable. This is a story that deserves some repeat reading, perhaps when one is feeling claustrophic with the problems in life or love. It is enchanting to escape for brief moments of time, if only through someone else’s experiences. And this book provides many such moments for escape.
It’s strange: you never dreamed that you would ever use the word “depression” with yourself. You always thought, naively, that it was something for sad, maybe even weak people, people who couldn’t just pick themselves up, for God’s sake, and move on. You didn’t realize that it was a leaden presence that came to call, uninvited, and couldn’t be driven away with any amount of food, wine, dancing, hiking, or trips to the shrink. It just stayed and stayed until it wanted to leave of its own accord. A few fantasy days on an island had held it at bay for a while, but it had returned shortly after, punishing you for your absence.
But time has helped, and now, four months later, the depression has lifted some. You are starting to imagine a time when you’ll be able to think that what was an ending could also be a beginning. Chapter Four: Milano (pp. 58-59)
You realize that it is dangerous to rely on the French professor to cheer yourself up. You try to hold on to the image of him only to remind yourself that there are men out there who are relaxed and romantic, who make you feel like a woman. There don’t seem to be any men like that in San Francisco, at least you haven’t met any in the many months that you’ve now been single. But you don’t want to become a cliché — a bitter divorced woman, sexually frustrated, anxious to have kids before it’s too late, angry that all the men your age are interested only in younger women, worried about crow’s feet and considering cosmetic surgery. And so you hold on to that cheerful hope. There are men like that out there. Somewhere. Chapter Four: Milano (p. 63)
It would be nice, you think, to fly to Italy for a few days just to flirt. Italian men, unlike American men, like to flirt even when there’s no chance of any tangible outcome. They just like to let you know, in restaurants and on the street, that they appreciate women, all kinds of women, that in fact they like women better than anything else in the world, and thank God He made creatures like you. Chapter Four: Milano (p. 64)