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Botticelli Blue Skies: An American in Florenceby Merrill Joan Gerber
Synopses & Reviews
When writer Merrill Joan Gerber is invited to join her husband, a history professor, as he takes a class of American college students to study in Florence, Italy, she feels terrified at the idea of leaving her comforts, her friends, and her aged mother in California. Her husband tries to assure her that her fear of Italy - and her lack of knowledge of the Italian language - will be offset by the discoveries of travel. "I can't tell you exactly what will happen, but something will. And it will all be new and interesting."
Botticelli Blue Skies is the tale of a woman who readily admits to fear of travel, a fear that many experience but are embarrassed to admit. When finally she plunges into the new adventure, she describes her experiences in Florence with wit, humor, and energy. Instead of sticking to the conventional tourist path, Gerber follows her instincts. She makes discoveries without tour guides droning in her ear and reclaims the travel experience as her own, taking time to shop in a thrift shop, eat in a Chinese restaurant that serves "Dragon chips," make friends with her landlady (who turns out to be a countess), and visit the class of a professor at the university. She discovers a Florence that is not all museums and wine.
With newfound patience and growing confidence, Gerber makes her way around Florence, Venice, and Rome. She visits famous places and discovers obscure ones — in the end embracing all that is Italian.
"Handled with subtle humor and disarming honesty, Gerber's narrative ultimately uncovers a core truth about travel: To surrender to a place, not the version from one's fantasies but as it really exists, is the only way to experience it. (In Italy that means uneven cobblestones, odd rhythms and quaint customs, frustrations and breathtaking splendor.) And though the adventure may not always be a comfortable one, even reluctant travelers are welcome to join in." Los Angeles Times
"An absorbing account of life in another country." Alison Hopkins, Library Journal
"[An] absolutely delightful travel memoir....Refusing to adopt a tourist mind-set, [Gerber] travels off the beaten path, approaching each new day and each new discovery as an adventure of the soul. With a writer's eye for detail and a keen sense of appreciation for unexpected gifts and pleasures, she records her daily impressions with grace, wit, and humor." Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
"For those who have traveled to Italy, this book will be a delicious reminder. For those who have never been there, it is a seductive invitation." Susan Koppelman, editor of Women in the Trees
"[Gerber's] eyes are sharp, and she has the ability to observe vividly. She deftly captures character, selecting just the right action, gesture, or fragment of speech. She gives a wonderful sense of what most travel books leave out." Jenijoy La Belle, author of Herself Beheld
Book News Annotation:
Gerber, a novelist who teaches creative writing at California Institute of Technology, has written a personal memoir of her fears of travel, learning experiences, and gradual mastery of living and traveling in Italy. An ability to observe and describe the prosaic brings the reader a certain sense of daily existence there. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Merrill Joan Gerber teaches creative writing at the California Institute of Technology. She is the author of seven novels and four volumes of short stories, including the prize-winning King of the World and The Kingdom of Brooklyn. Her most recent novels are Anna in Chains and Anna in the Afterlife, as well as a memoir, Old Mother, Little Cat: A Writer's Reflections on Her Kitten, Her Aged Mother...and Life.
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