My chair, my woman cave, is surrounded by books, my full teacup, iPad, Kindle and other necessities such as my cell phone, in case someone actually calls.  I’m re-reading “Bella Tuscany” by Francis Mayes for the umpteenth time.  Yes, I’m one of those people who re-read books.  Most of the books I buy are books I’ve already read, books that I plan to keep, cherish and re-read many more times, whether in real book form (my favorite), Kindle (especially lovely for travel) or both.

This is the story of two books: one, part of a small series that I love; the other, part of a series I loved, then left.photo(429)

Forget “Take me away, Calgon.”  I’m indulging in a visit to Italy with Francis Mayes and her husband, Ed, carried along by her beautiful prose that reads like poetry, dreaming of a stay in their Tuscan villa, now that it’s more or less restored.  In real life, the struggles she relates, more in “Under the Tuscan Sun” than here, about the difficulty of getting workers to show up to  work and how much they had to have done, makes me appreciate even more the wonderful, on-time painters we had recently.  But I luxuriate in the description of food, buying their house wine, visiting with friends, the villages and places they visit and wish that I, too, were in Italy.  I hope that when we have friends over for a meal that I’m recreating the warmth and pleasure in company, conversation and good food that’s evident in the book.

Her first book,”Under the Tuscan Sun”, is also a beautiful book; the movie they made from it, not so much  One reason is that the movie bears almost no resemblance to the book.  For instance Ed, her now-husband, then-boyfriend/partner, doesn’t even appear in the movie until the end, when the house is already bought, whereas in reality, he was there from the start, a rather large difference.

Second, the movie contains a torrid sex scene and affair that didn’t happen at all.  What made it worse was that our family, the two of us and our two young daughters, were watching what should have been a PG-rated movie, only to have it morph into an Italian soap opera, not exactly what you want to happen when you’re watching with your children!  We didn’t finish it. 

But I promised you two books.  The other is “God Save the Child”,  second book in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series.

photo(430)

I read all the Spenser books until recently and since Robert Parker died several years ago, there won’t be more to read unless, as sometimes happens, someone else takes over writing them.  When an author I like dies, one of the saddest things about his/her death is that all his/her characters die as well.  Only in a few cases, as in that of Robert Ludlum, are authors found to continue the characters, whether successfully or not.

I liked the early books in the series.  Spenser was a thoughtful man who ruminated about many aspects of life, took a healthy interest in food, which he cooked and which was described, and considered which beer to drink with meals. Although he drank all sorts of beers, I remember Amstel as being his favorite.  There’s even a website that lists what Spenser drinks in each book.  (Some people much have more time on there hands than I do.)  I see that he doesn’t like Guinness.  Maybe that should have told me something.)

There was also a television series, “Spenser for Hire”, starring Robert Urich, which we enjoyed.  I’m not sure that the way he and Hawk, his best friend who also happened to be a hit man and enforcer whose conversational style flips back and forth between Ebonics and standard English, race through the streets of Boston while chasing the bad guys and shooting wildly at them is particularly authentic.  But then again, I haven’t been to Boston for many years, so who knows?  🙂

As the series went on, I found myself reading the latest book from habit, hoping it might be better than the last, only to find that I  didn’t think so.  Everyone in the books seemed sleazy, with few, if any, redeeming characteristics.  Hawk, intelligent and a good friend to Spenser but basically a gun for hire, was becoming the person I liked the most, and I could never completely forgive Spenser for  his girlfriend Susan, whom I, for whatever reason, never really liked.  (The staying faithful to her was wonderful; she just annoyed me.)  Eventually I stopped reading the books altogether.

I’m going back to the beginning of the series (couldn’t find the first one at the library, so I’m starting with number two) to see if the things I enjoyed about the early Spenser are really there or if they’ve taken on a luster through the passage of time that doesn’t hold when I reread the books.  I hope I find I’m right and I still enjoy them.  If not, I’ll feel sad, as if not only Robert Parker but Spenser is no longer with me.  That double death would be the saddest blow of all.  If that happens, I’ll be even happier to drown my sorrows in a glass of Italian wine and indulge in some marvelous food with friends in Tuscany.

Comments
  1. billgncs says:

    I remember how we met in the bar after the rugby match and we talked of books.

  2. Mamalion says:

    I have found the same thing. Some books I love and reread occasionally, some series I even reread yearly- hello Mitford, Miss Read, Dame Agatha. And some books I have read, thought I liked, but upon returning to them, question what on earth I saw in them the first time. I have finally determined that is how I handle the ahem, excess of my bookshelves- is it worth the reread?

  3. I have a lot of books that, over the years, I have loved. There are two series which I adore, one I have read twice (quite an achievement for me), the second time the twenty-some books in about two weeks. That series, “Endworld” by David Robbins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endworld, is great. But, my favorite series was / is the “In Death” series by JD Robb (Nora Roberts) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Death I am still reading, as she is not done with it.
    Those characters (in both series) stayed the same throughout the series and were human and loveable or, at least, likeable.
    Scott

  4. vbholmes says:

    Nothing like a favorite book and a warm fire on a dreary winter day–am off to indulge myself.

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