Is there something like a ‘soul author’? An author who seems to know your very soul, and who has put down your exact feelings in his/her book? When you read their book, you feel like you are reading something that you yourself have written – secret longings lodged so deep in your heart that you yourself don’t know they exist, little unspoken-of dreams, and the memories that took root in your heart in childhood and grew and grew into a tree so that you cannot escape the allure of certain things even in your adulthood, things that might appear mundane or even weird to some other people?
I seem to have found my soul author in Frances Mayes, after Robert James Waller. Mayes seem to know me – the real me – and more than once, I have found the writing on my very soul in her books. How does she know that as a child, I used to stare out of train windows too, gaze longingly at the farmhouses on the way, and think: ‘Who lives in these houses?’ How does she know that I am a dreamer too, a big-time one, and put in words exactly my feelings about the places that she wants to travel to? How does her idea of nothingness and living in the moment, of travel and travel destinations so exactly match mine? How does she know that I love making up stories about the people that we notice around us, an activity in which my husband eagerly joins in?
Mayes is living my dream – of buying an old house in a distant but beautiful country, to convert it into a home, and build a life there, and of travelling to the heart’s content. My love affair with her books started with her Under The Tuscan Sun and then, grew some more with her A Year In The World. Now, it is at a peak with my current read, her Bella Tuscany. She sounds to me like a wise elder sister, who pacifies and soothes me with her words, and makes me dream beautiful dreams about the future. My connection with Mayes and her books goes on deepening, book after lovely book.
Mayes is making me dream like no one else. Just yesterday, the OH asked me: ‘You are drowned in your book, so much so that you didn’t even respond to me when I asked you something. What is it about this author’s books that enchants you so much?’ And I told him all of this. I told him about the longing in my heart to travel every nook and cranny of the whole wide world, and that Mayes’ longing to do the same speaks to me. I told him of the dream that I have of living in a rambling European countryside house, writing at my desk by the window from which I can look out to see the pretty pink blossoms of a tree, the well in the street beyond, and the women in black-and-white gowns drawing water from the well, keeping an eye on their children out on the street, playing. All the while, my brown Labrador would lie at my feet. I told the OH of my dream of baking bread at home with the neighbourhood women, them teaching me how to make yeast rise, while I told them of the magic of phulka rotis and corn-on-the-cob from my land.
This is another reason why I love books – because often I am surprised to find so much of myself in them, and because they make me dream of faraway places and of falling in love with them.