Monday, August 23, 2010

Marcus of Umbria by Justine Van der Leun

Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Woman about Love is a memoir recounting of the author’s own experience. Told in first person narrative in novel style, it is the story of a young woman from New York who visits Italy on vacation and falls in love with a handsome Italian gardener named Emanuele. Although she returns home after her vacation, the draw to Italy disturbs her peace. Within a few weeks, she abandons her job and life in New York and returns to Italy to move in her new Italian boyfriend and live with him and his family in Collelungo an Umbrian town of 200 people.

However, building a relationship between two people of vastly different cultures is challenging to say the least. As the author immerses herself into a new Italian life, she faces numerous challenges, makes a realm of good friendships, and ultimately finds an unusual, but true love of the heart.

Being first generation Italian Canadian and having travelled to Italy on numerous occasions, what I enjoyed most was that the novel gave a very clear and accurate picture about rural Italian life. The author captured the essence of the culture, the traditional roles of men and women within a family and the bonds that bind them together. She went into wonderful detail about the food, a simpler lifestyle, and the generosity of the Italian villagers. The relationship between rural Italians and their pets was also accurately portrayed in that animals often serve a utilitarian purpose rather than kept as pets.

The author has a nice easy writing style, peppering her prose with poignancy and humour. For the animal lovers or anyone who loves Italy and it’s rich culture, this is a wonderful, satisfying story. Because the story arose from the author’s direct experiences, the novel was rich and vivid and a true pleasure to read.

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