Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mama Shepp's Family Recommends...

This week's family recommendation comes from Mama Shepp's own mama. Actually, I'm not sure anyone's ever called her "Mama" but that's neither here nor there. What's she's recommended for us is Extra Virgin: Amongst The Olive Groves of Liguria by Annie Hawkes. Here's what Mom has to say about the book:

"Annie Hawes and "the sister" leave England to work in San Pietro, a town on the Riviera near the French border, for ten weeks. They begin their stay in an inn which also houses "The Sulking Cafe" where they learn the wide differences between Italy and England. The English sisters are mystified over the many beliefs of the Italians in 1983 and the Italians are horrified over the behavior and notions of the English sisters. Before the ten weeks are over, the sisters have bought a rustico (an old abandoned home) in the mountains above the village. They begin the process of learning to live with "the hanky people" and to learn and accept the customs. There are many blunders made as they progress through the steps to making their house a home and to adapting the many terraces around their home into an acceptable landscape. The story includes many references to Italian foods and eating habits. The most common thread is that of the olive tree which grows in great abundance in their region. As you read, you learn to love the Italian friends and feel sorrow when one later dies. You struggle to learn to care for the olive trees and to make the tedious ride up to the mountain home. You are introduced to many Italian words and have a wonderful time at the many "festas" that frequently occur. Because it is only about 40 years since the end of WWII, you are introduced to the memories of the Nazi influence in this part of the world and feel grateful that you are not a German trying to settle in this region. When money runs out, the sisters return to England to work but hurry back to their new home. The book has many facets--humor, instruction, pathos, cooking lessons, horticulture, etc.--it is a delightful book, one that I highly recommend. The author's memoirs are well written and you live the years with and through her. Her command of the English language makes the book come alive. It just makes you go "wow!" Luigi and Maria and Domenico and Sergio became my friends as we harvested the olives and fought the forest fires, and stomped the grapes. And now if you don't mind, I need to go and find some extra virgin olive oil--the noon church bells are ringing and I must follow custom and eat."

When looking for more information on this book, I found a curious thing. I'm used to different covers, so I wasn't surprised that the cover I found on Goodreads (above) was not the same as the cover I found on Barnes & Nobles' website. The strange part was that the subtitle was different. So if this one appeals to you, you may find it under the title "Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers The Italian Riviera, Where Every Month Is Enchanted." Oh, and do make sure you look for this by the author as well as the title, which, not surprisingly, will also bring you up some books of an entirely different ilk!


  1. Oh, that's funny; we both blogged about English women "enchanted" by Italy! Mama Shepps' mama's recommendation appeals to me very much :)

  2. That sounds like an interesting book. Interesting thing about the subtitles! The second one definitely sounds more catchy!

  3. I think I have this one hiding on a shelf somewhere!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful read and I am going to have to try to grab a copy somewhere! I loved this review! This book would probably make the perfect read for me, so thanks for sharing it!