Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

When my friend Ina recommended this book, I went right to the library to borrow a copy. I loved the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (also a book) and knew I would find this book interesting. And I did.

Frances Mayes writes about four American women, one of whom is the narrator, Kit, in her early forties, already living in Tuscany, Italy, and I suspect is actually the author Frances Mayes. The other three women are between the ages of 60 and 70, checking out a senior living facility that they are considering moving to. Two are widowed and one is separated from her husband and I believe is in the process of divorce. (I read it two months ago and cannot remember what state of un-marriage she is in, probably because I was divorced and found the whole ordeal painful!)

The three women rent a villa in Tuscany and befriend Kit, who is the book’s narrator, and her husband. ¬†As the story progresses we find the older women coming out of the shells of their previous lives in the US and blossoming into strong, yet sensitive women. Each woman finds her niche, either something she had started before she came to Italy and had abandoned, like one character who stopped painting when she married as a young girl, or breaking new ground with their talents and skills.

The book is believable, although I had difficulty accepting the fact that three strangers could get along so quickly and easily, but other than that, I found each women’s story delightfully enlightening and entertaining. When the younger woman discovers she is pregnant for the first time in her forties, she and her husband are thrilled, and the birth of the baby adds another delightful element to the story. This baby has four mothers, not one, since the three women are fully on board for the birth and babyhood!

The descriptions, the dialogue, and the story line are engaging, and as the women blossom, so does the story. While I first thought it would be an easy “beach book,” I soon realized that the book is actually not a beach book, but rather one that I found thought-provoking, as the women find their way through post-middle age through interesting work and equally interesting new relationships with the local residents as well as the older men they meet.

My feeling is that the narrator is the author Frances Mayes (in the book she is also a writer), and based on information about Mayes at the end of the book, is actually about real women friends that she met in the US or in Italy. Of course, Mayes has fictionalized the characters, so perhaps there is a little fairy dust sprinkled in the story. But I enjoyed it thoroughly and I may just add a villa in Tuscany to my bucket list!

One thought on “Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

  1. Frances Mayes is one of my very favorite writers. Have read most of what she has written. Thought the film of Under the Tuscan Sun very poorly represented that memoir. My favorite, though I must read Women in Sunlight, is her compelling memoir, Under Magnolia. She is a brilliant writer and taught writing for many years at San Francisco State. Thanks for telling us about her latest.

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