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At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell Book Review

At Least You’re in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell Book Review

I received this book for free from Netgalley for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.

At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell
Published by Gemelli Press
Publication Date: Sept. 28, 2012
Genres: Humor, Nonfiction, World or cultural
Pages: 220
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Your Favorite Indie Bookstore* | Barnes & Noble*
Goodreads
four-stars

This book is a humorous and honest look about what it's really like to pack up your life and move to a small town in Tuscany in funny, sometimes embarassing and delicious detail.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“At Least You’re in Tuscany: A Somewhat Diastrous Quest for the Sweet Life is Jennifer Criswell’s memoir about her first year in Montepulciano during which her dream of expat life meets the reality of everyday challenges and results in sometimes funny, often frustrating, always lesson-filled situations.

Jennifer Criswell’s move from New York City to Tuscany was not supposed to go like this. She had envisioned lazy mornings sipping espresso while penning a best-selling novel and jovial Sunday group dinners, just like in the movies and books about expatriate life in Italy. But then she met the reality: no work, constant struggles with Italian bureaucracy to claim citizenship through her ancestors, and, perhaps worst of all, becoming the talk of the town after her torrid affair with a local fruit vendor.

At Least You’re in Tuscany is the intimate, honest, and often hilarious tale of Jennifer’s first year in Montepulciano. During that time, her internal optimist was forced to work overtime, reminding her that if she were going to be homeless, lonely, and broke, at least she would be all those things—in Tuscany. Jennifer’s mantra, along with a healthy dose of enthusiasm, her willingness to embrace Italian culture, and lessons gleaned from small-town bumblings, help her not only build a new, rewarding life in Italy but also find herself along the way.”

My Thoughts
At Least You’re in Tuscany is an enjoyable and easy-to-read book about one American woman’s journey to live her dream in the poppy-filled rolling hills of Tuscany. After a remarkable and inspiring vacation, author Jennifer Criswell decides to pack up her life and her old loveable dog, Cinder, to live in Tuscany. Carrying out that dream proves more difficult than she thinks when her paperwork for citizenship and residency is delayed, delayed…and delayed some more. Without the ability to work a consistent job, money and hope are dwindling and I wondered if she would make it through.

I enjoyed learning more about the nature of real life and people in Montepulciano, a little town in Italy. Being a single adult, she experienced firsthand the flirtatious nature of Italian men yet it surprised me that she spent Christmas alone since Italians spend holidays with their blood relatives and didn’t even think to invite her since she was just a friend. She even met a couple hunky men named Fabio to spice up the story.

Despite the small town nature, they had their share of Hollywood intrusions and tourists who couldn’t quite blend in to the scenery. The Twilight sequel, New Moon, was filmed in Montepulciano and it was interesting to read what the townspeople really thought of the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (which I loved, by the way).

Ms. Criswell’s humorous conversational writing style made me feel like we were friends chatting over a nice glass of wine as the sun sets on the breathtaking view from her apartment terrace.  At Least You’re in Tuscany is an enjoyable, fast and easy read about the joys and realities of living in a small Italian town with its charming cobblestone streets, local markets, glorious food and wine, lots of wine.

Favorite Quotes

“I wanted to live in a place where even the birds took time to enjoy the small pleasures of everyday life. Where the men looked like demigods and even when dressed as Julius Caesar giving tours at the Coliseum had the confidence to invite me to dinner. Where the pace was slower, where meals were enjoyed. I wanted this life. “Someday”, I promised the swallow…”

“But when you’re meant to be somewhere, everything in between feels like you’re treading water, just waiting for that wave to lift you and carry you onto the shore of your new land.  My new land was Italy. Marcel Proust said it of Venice, but for me it was Tuscany: “I made my dream my address.”

“Whew. I’d escaped death by toilet on my first night in Italy.”

Reading Challenges Satisfied:

Around the World in 80 Books – Italy

Italy is definitely still on my bucket list of places I’d like to travel to.
If you like reading about Americans experiences living overseas, then you may also like Here We Are and There We Go by Jill Dobbe or Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Have you ever dreamed of packing up your life and moving to another country? Where do your dreams take you? always, happy reading!

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About Jennifer Criswell

From author’s website: “Jennifer Criswell is a lawyer turned writer. After a trip to Italy in 2001 changed her life and her direction, she chucked her legal briefs to pursue her love of writing. Jennifer followed this dream to New York City where she supported herself (just) for over six years by walking dogs on the Upper West Side.

Jennifer has authored three novels, and her current project, AT LEAST YOU’RE IN TUSCANY: A Somewhat Disastrous Quest for the Sweet Life, is an honest and funny memoir about the reality of following your dream.

Jennifer lives and writes in a small hill town in Italy with her sidekick of a Weimaraner, Cinder. They are always on the look out for new adventures… and new gelato flavors!”

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18 Comments

  1. This book looks exactly like my cup of tea! I love to daydream about moving to Paris and opening up a small bookshop so I really enjoy hearing about people who have actually followed their dream to move to another country! Definitely one for the Amazon wishlist! 🙂

    1. That’s a great testament to it’s authenticity, that you lived near Montepulciano and still loved the book. Did you see or read Under the Tuscan Sun? Not having visited, I’m not sure why the townspeople disliked the portrayal of Tuscany. Any thoughts Monika?

      Thanks for stopping by! Hope you will link up one of your reviews or book discussions in my Small Victories Sunday linkup!

      1. Well, I was about 3 hours south. So nearby as in close enough to visit often, but where I lived isn’t Tuscany anymore (I was in Lazio). I definitely felt Criswell’s book was authentic – it wasn’t a romanticized, cliché portrayal of Italians, which I think is the problem many have with Under the Tuscan Sun. (I’ve only seen the movie). In the Amazon 1-star reviews, you’ll hear that mentioned a lot about Mayes’s book. I did notice cultural differences between Montepulciano and where I lived, which has a lot of Neapolitan influence (possibly it was just my neighborhood that had the Neapolitan influence) and I talk about that in my review. But those differences are normal, because culture and food and even language can vary enormously from region to region in Italy.

        1. So can I ask you what cliche’s do you think the Tuscans had a problem with? I found the Tuscans in the movie charming but haven’t seen it in awhile. Just curious, because I love learning about the true culture and am all for breaking stereotypes. It’s interesting that you say the culture, food and language vary greatly between regions, that sounds just like India, where my parents are from. And while I understand the language my parents speak and adore the food of our region, that won’t get me very far traveling in India. While English is one of India’s national languages, I don’t know a lick of Hindi or the other more popular dialects.

          I stopped by and loved your review of this book Monika. I am curious now to read Under the Tuscan son and read more about the other regions of Italy. Do you have any recommendations for me, fiction of nonfiction? Thanks for visiting and the great discussion. Hope you stop by and link up a post to my Small Victories Sunday linkup!

          1. I think that charming portrayal you mention is the problem… I would take a look at this person’s review and this one (which also gives other book recommendations). Oh and this review as well. Those pretty much sum up the sentiments toward it, I think. 😉

            This year I read the novel Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone and oh my word, it was a tough, heartbreaking read but I think it really nails what a lot of Italians are going through today. It’s a completely different side of Italy. I linked to my review because I think some of what I wrote applies to our discussion here… and at the end, there’s a link to an interview with the author on the Penguin website which is very much worth reading.

            Travels with George by Olga Vannucci is good, too. It’s a travel memoir, self-published and could have used another edit, but it’s very sweet. It better shows the day-to-day life of Italians, what real Italian life is like.

            I’ll try to stop by and link up on Sunday, thanks for reminding me that you have that!

    1. It was a fun book. Did you see Under the Tuscan Sun or read the book Ashley? I hear the book is quite different than the movie so I would still like to read it also. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I am reading Paris in Love and it has a similar premise. Lady moved her family there for a year or two (not very far in yet). It makes me want to visit Paris! There’s something about knowing people just got up and did this that makes you dream about it.

  3. I definitely want to read this!! Italy is the #1, #2, and #3 spot on my top three list of places I want to travel. It has been for YEARS!! I feel like I’d totally visit then want to live there! I love that her writing style is funny and that it’s a light and that it’s an enjoyable read. I’m putting this on my Goodreads list right now!! –Lisa

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