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From Mansfield Park to Milan

Last night, I finished Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. As much as I love Austen and usually am very pleased with her endings, I thought the ending of this book kind of fizzled. I know I said yesterday that I didn't know how I wanted it to end, but that was apparently not true. The character who I wanted to like, and was just starting to like, I did not end up liking. Oh, well.

It was very well-written and a great commentary of the time on many issues, including society, education, wealth (or lack of), charity, love and principles. Another really good book by Austen. I personally did not relate to any of the characters. There was no Elizabeth or Jane Bennett for me to love, no Mr. Darcy to make my heart well up. But I can appreciate the book itself and Austen's excellent writing.

This morning*, I started my TBR Challenge book for February: Desiring Italy, edited by Susan Cahill. I've gotten through the Introduction, which explains that this is a collection of writing from some pretty famous women (and only women) about Italy. The point is that the historical women write about Italy in a different way than men historically have. I can't remember exactly how she describes it, but she's sold me on it--something about women's passion for it and their finding sensuality in Italy. I read the Overtures, which is some snippets of writing from authors like Erica Jong and Virgina Woolf who talk about Italy. Finally, I started on the first story, which is about Milan.

Would you like to hear the story behind this book and why it's on my TBR Challenge list? I bought this book a few years ago because I saw it in an airport bookstore while waiting for a plane (this might be a recurring theme for the books in this list, because I used to travel for work a bit and would always pass time in bookstores if there were any in the airport). It's been sitting on my shelf to be read for really no reason, but there are reasons I was drawn to it and bought it.

First, you all must know how much I love Italy. Being of Italian decent, I have always felt a bond for the country and its people. In college, I took italian for 2.5 years, including a semester abroad in Florence. I haven't been back since that semester, over ten years ago, and that makes me want to cry. Londo and I have kicked around the idea of going there on a vacation, and we are currently saving up to attempt this hopefully before we have any more kiddies. When you haven't seen Florence in a while, you get what they call "Duomo-sickness"** like home-sickness except for Florence's Duomo (the dome of the cathedral). I've had it bad for a while.

Second, for a while, I thought I would become a travel writer. I studied Journalism and Mass Communication in grad school, and I truly thought I wanted to work for a travel magazine. That plan didn't work out, and I'm glad it didn't. I couldn't imagine a job that took me away from my husband, baby and home on a regular basis. Travel for work used to sound (and be) so much fun, but now I'm so happy being home that I'm glad my current project doesn't require much traveling. But I still have always loved to read travel articles and books and stories.

Third, I have a high appreciation for women writers. I studied English as an undergrad, and took a few gender studies/literature courses. I like reading things from a woman's perspective. I guess it's cause I can relate. But I especially like to read historical literature by women, because it really gives me an insight into a time period from a woman's perspective, which is too often overlooked by historical books and literature as they are usually written by men from a man's perspective. Oh yeah, and I'm bit of a feminist.

So this book combines all those things that I enjoy. I think I haven't read it yet because I ache to go back, and reading about Italy makes the ache much greater. But since Londo and I have really been talking about going (he's never been), I decided to read this book and another book I have on Italy this year to help inspire me to plan the trip. Hopefully this fall.

As a side note about the book, I actually bought a copy and gave it to my italian Grandma for Christmas this year. She is now 93 and unable to travel all the way over there. She did go just a few years ago with my mom and uncle, but it was hard on her. I hope she is enjoying the book.

Wow, this post ended up being much longer than I had planned. I hope I didn't bore you all to pieces!

*That's right, morning. When the baby nurses for 45 minutes or longer at 6 AM, I actually have time to read in the mornings. It's kind of nice--a relaxing way to start the day and wake up slowly. I used to nurse her lying down and drift back off to sleep, but neither of us can back to sleep these days when she wakes up as late as 6, especially with her fidgeting. So I get to read while she nurses and plays with my hair.

**There is an italian phrase for this, which I can never remember. Perhaps my friend in Italy who reads this knows it and could let me know? She doesn't live in Florence and is not a native speaker, so I'm not sure if she'll know the phrase...


Karen said…
How nice that you carve out time to read. I miss that.
ImpostorMom said…
I would love to go to Italy. We didn't go for our last big pre-baby vacation because we only had a week and wanted to see so much of Italy that we decided to go to Paris instead. I think that would make my longing unbearable right now though. I don't think it's in the cards for us anytime soon.
Karen said…
Hey, I've got some bloggy bling for you!
Shellie said…
I say go for it on the vacation! After you have more kids it gets so much harder to do. We went to Chile with just my first. It was wonderful! We went back 7 years later to adopt our third and now that we have five we are so strapped we have no idea when the whole family will be able to make it back. I would LOVE to go to Italy and learn Italian, it is beautiful.

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