Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Thousand Days In Venice by Marlena De Blasi

A Thousand Days In Venice by Marlena De Blasi
Published June 2003 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: this copy belongs to me

Publisher's Summary:
He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafĂ© a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; and she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando—“the stranger,” as she calls him—and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.

Vibrant but vaguely baffled by this bold move, Marlena is overwhelmed by the sheer foreignness of her new home, its rituals and customs. But there are delicious moments when Venice opens up its arms to Marlena. She cooks an American feast of Mississippi caviar, cornbread, and fried onions for the locals . . . and takes the tango she learned in the Poughkeepsie middle school gym to a candlelit trattorĂ­a near the Rialto Bridge. All the while, she and Fernando, two disparate souls, build an extraordinary life of passion and possibility.  

My Thoughts:
This book was recommended to me years ago by my Italian auntie, before I was clever enough to keep a listing of books I wanted to read someday and just trusted my memory to recall the title one day. Luckily it did one day when I was scanning the shelves at my local library book sale. A Thousand Days in Venice charmed me, made me want to hop a plan, fly to Venice, and wander the streets until I met the man of my dreams (don't tell The Big Guy!).

"Terror, illness, deceit, delusion, marriage, divorce, loneliness had all come to visit early enough in my life, interfering with the peace. Some of the demons just passed through, while others of them pitched tents outside my back door. And they stayed. One by one they went away, each leaving some impression of the visit that made me stronger, better."

Imagine that you have your life settled - you've created a beautiful home, have a successful business, get to travel to Europe for a job and have raised two children. Then one day a mysterious man tells you that the two of you are fated to be together...and you believe him. You turn your life upside down despite the objections of family and friends. You sell your belongings and your business and move across an ocean to live with a man who've only known a short time, in an apartment you've never seen. It's no wonder that De Blasi spends the rest of the book calling her beloved "the stranger."

Marlena De Blasi
De Blasi writes honestly about not just the wonder of finding herself swept away by love in middle age but also the difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country with a man she hardly knows. DeBlasi barely speaks the language and knows no one in Venice beside Fernando. She misses having friends, being understood, and cooking.
"Perhaps no one ever gets to know Venice as much as they remember her, recall her from an episode in some other dream. Venice is all our fantasies. Water, light, color, perfume, escape, disguise, license are gold spun and stitched into the skirts she trails across her stones by day and spreads out over her lagoon in the never-quite-blackness of her nights."
It's difficult to make Venice dull so it's not a surprise that Venice comes off as a lovely place to begin anew. In De Blasi's more than capable hands, though, Venice comes alive, not just as a beautiful city but as a city people actually live and work in. And oh the food - from shopping for the ingredients, to preparing the meals, to the flavors and smells - it all comes alive. De Blasi doesn't make you want to head out to the kitchen and start cooking; she makes you want to head out to a kitchen with a chef who can show you the right way to feed your soul through food. 

Most of all, De Blasi makes you want to take a chance and to look for passion in your life. What more can you ask? 


  1. Like the background to the story! Set in Venice it has to be super.

  2. This book had the same effect on me. I must see Venice!!

  3. I love books about Venice, and so I'm sure I would enjoy it--the drop everything and run after love bit doesn't quite work for me, I'm too practical I guess, but it does sound like a good premise for exploring and taking about such an enchanting place.