It has been a long, long time since I found a book so charming that I had to put it down each time I read a few paragraphs, close my eyes, rehash the words in my brain, and sigh deeply – in pleasure. That happened to me when I was reading Frances Mayes’ Under The Tuscan Sun, and it again happened over the last week, when I was reading another book of Mayes’ – A Year In The World. I found the book delightful, and devoured page after page of it, and by the end of it, I was left feeling sated, charmed, and a bit sad that the story had ended.
A Year In The World is Mayes’ account of the free travel that she and her partner Ed undertook for one full year, largely covering several parts of Europe.
Mayes and Ed were returning home from some place when Mayes casually thought: ‘Why do we need to go back to our routine lives? Why can’t we buy another ticket and go someplace else? And then someplace else from there? Why does the travelling have to end?’ And after a brief period, that’s just what they decided to do – to take a break from their routine lives and work, and see the world for an entire year, wandering around from one place to another and taking up temporary residence in certain places to feel exactly the same feelings that the people living in these places would feel. The book A Year In The World is an extract from the notebook that Mayes maintained for this year of travel.
A Year In The World is chock-full of descriptions – of people, places, history, culture and food – to the extent that someone else might find it verbose and difficult to read. I did not feel that way, though. I was hooked to the book from Page One itself, and hung on to every word till the very end. I savoured all the experiences that Mayes has described, and saw each of the enchanting places that she visited through her eyes. The descriptions are the beauty of the book. Having never paid particular attention to world history, I couldn’t much relate to the history of each place visited by Mayes, which she describes in simple prose, but the other parts definitely struck a chord with me.
The language of the book is simple, yet charming. Or, maybe, it is so charming because it is so simple. Mayes describes things to the minutest detail – such as a yellow-coloured bicycle that she wants to ride at some place or the exact shade of blue that the sea is at a particular coast. To me, such details made these places all the more attractive.
In A Year In The World, Mayes attempts to solve the riddle of ‘home’ – what makes some places feel like home? She delves deep into feelings – her own and assumptions about other people’s – at the places that she visits. This makes the book a deeper and richer read than Under The Tuscan Sun.
An absolutely delectable book, A Year In The World is a feast to the senses. It makes me want to take a break from my routine life too and traverse the whole, wide world before I become too old to savour certain places fully. But then, is a person ever too old to not travel? Mayes certainly has me believe that travelling is possible at any time, to any place.
A Year In The World makes me want to circle all those fantastic-sounding places in the world atlas, hand in my notice at work, and just keep on travelling till I am sated and want to come back ‘home’, visiting all those places that are full of beauty but which very few tourists attempt to visit. I am passionate about travel too, but this book makes me want the kind of passion that Mayes has for her destinations.
It is a beautiful book, absolutely worth buying and savouring time and time again. Like I said for Under The Tuscan Sun, I cannot recommend A Year In The World highly enough.