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Welcome to News From Italy, my blog about our Italian Adventure. Although this blog has now ceased publication I will be continuing to blog and I am sincerely hoping that my many followers here will move with me to Travel Tales blog to follow my next adventures wherever they may take me. The links to my other blogs are:-

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Marcus of Umbria - Book Review


Today I have something different to post about for a change a Book Review.  I am posting it here in addition to on my other blog LindyLouMac'sBookReviews as it is set in Italy. I thought therefore that some of you who do not already read my book reviews might well be interested. 

Maybe I can even tempt some of you into signing up as a follower of LindyLouMac'sBookReviews


I felt the title and the blurb were somewhat misleading as I was expecting more about Justine's relationship with the dog a female called Marcus, yes really and less about Italian culture. In fact I was unsure if I was even going to like the book as I am not a doggy person and would therefore have been happier had it been publicised as yet another Life in Italy story. As really that is what it is, dressed up as a doggy tale to maybe attract a different readership, no idea why though. It was no surprise to me to read a review where the reader was disappointed as there was too much culture and not enough about Justine's relationship with Marcus.

Despite not agreeing personally with the way the book has been marketed I did enjoy it especially as there was an awful lot I was able to empathise with as an expat in Italy myself.

Justine whilst on holiday in Italy starts a relationship with a local man, Emanuele, and barely knowing him decides to give up the New York lifestyle that she is already disillusioned with to live with him in Collelungo. His family the Crucianis accept her as one of the family, despite the fact that due to the culture shock she is experiencing she finds it very difficult and never truly feels she belongs. I don't think Emanuele ever really felt she did either, when you read that he had a key ring engraved with words from a Bob Dylan song as a gift for her. 'Justine, I love you but you're strange'

The relationship with Marcus comes about because one of the things that Justine found hard to cope with was the rural Italians behaviour towards their dogs. It is not usually that the dogs are treated cruelly it is just that they are not seen as pets, but as animals that have to earn their keep and certainly would not not allowed indoors. It has been like this for generations and is not something that Justine was likely to be able to change overnight.

Unable to adapt to Italian rural life and realising that she and Emanule, as much as they had been good friends to each other, it was never going to be a lifetime commitment.  With the relationship as good as over she makes plans to return to the USA along with Marcus. What a culture shock for her, the dog I mean, that must have been!

Can I recommend this well it really depends what you are expecting. If you are hoping that her relationship with Marcus will be thoroughly explored and that you might actually learn something from the lessons she learnt, you will I think be disappointed. I never did discover what that lesson was. That is No then but Yes if you want to read a story that despite, the title is focused on Justine's I think realistic portrayal of life in rural Umbria.


As a point of further interest Collelungo is a real place a very small village near the town of Todi in Umbria and I wonder how they feel about the possible publicity for them that this book might lead to.  I have no idea if names have been changed to preserve identities but with a population of less than 200 not sure this would work anyway.

Collelungo.JPGCollelungo courtesy of Wikipedia

I rarely include personal detail about people I mention on my blog as I feel it is an intrusion into their privacy. Maybe it is different if you write a book I wonder how the people concerned felt?  I do not think I have ever considered this aspect before when reading the many other living abroad tales from expats, but somehow this time I was thinking about my neighbours and how I hold back from writing about them in my blog.


  1. I wondered, too, if names were changed -- found out after I reviewed the book that in fact, they were not. I found that a bit odd, to be honest. I can't imagine writing anything so in depth and personal about people in my village like this *especially* without hiding identities a bit, but that's me. Great review :)

  2. I had the same question myself. I enjoyed the book and gave it a positive review, but agree that the dog link is not as strong as I was expecting it to be. Nonetheless, I thought it was a spot-on and realistic portrayal of rural Italian life and culture.

  3. Thanks for sharing this review with us. I have read so many memoirs of life in another country, that I feel I have lived there a little bit. I will look for this book.
    I will check your other blog, too!

  4. I definitely want to read this. Great review.

  5. I was curious to read more reviews of this book - thanks! I haven't decided yet if it makes it onto my list or not. I must admit the name-changing conversation above is really interesting to me.

  6. You raise an interesting question. I know that I'm not a writer first, so my first loyalty will be to my friends and neighbors, not to writing. I think it's a decision that all writers have to make. I'm not going to make enemies for my "art" but others have had to make that sacrifice for the sake of honesty in their writing. No one good answer. Even if you have no serious criticisms to make regarding others, there is their privacy to consider. It's my biggest disappointment with blogging. I'm naturally honest and blunt and so in constant danger of blowing my first loyalty or sounding phony to myself.

  7. I would have more reservations about mentioning real people in a book, compared to a blog. At least with blogging you don't feel you're making money from writing about them! But I suppose there's nothing they could do to stop her, as long as she keeps it factual.

  8. My mom, having grown up on a farm in Mexico had that same attitude toward animals until recently when she fell in love with a dog that now lives indoors with her.

  9. Michelle - That is interesting, I also feel that even if she had changed the names, mentioning such a small place, like your village, it is hard to hide identities?
    Saretta - I agree it was very realistic.
    Simony, Welshcakes and Some Birds - You are welcome to add your names to the circulation list, just let me know :)
    D and G - Yes it is certainly something to think about
    Rachel - Agreed!
    Unknown Mami - Dogs were considered as working animals and not members of the family in most countries I think, but slowly changing. Good for your Mum.:)

  10. I'd be really interested to read this book since I live in rural Umbria too!

    I'm enjoying catching up with your posts after being away from the blogging world for the past month or so. It sounds like you've had a busy summer.

    Thanks for your messages of congratulations on my blog and enjoy what's left of the Summer xx

  11. Sarah Elizabeth - Welcome back to rural Umbria and blogging :) I would be very happy to add your name to the so far short reading list for this book, just let me know.

  12. That would be great if you could add me to the reading list - thanks!

  13. Sarah Elizabeth - You have been added to the list. I look forward to hearing what you think.



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