Annie Hawes- Ripe for the Picking

Ripe for the Picking

What it’s about: 

This is the first I read of Annie Hawes’ books and probably my favourite.  Annie (or Anna as the locals call her, what with ‘Anni’ being much to peculiar to be anyone’s name) is becoming altogether better established in the hills of Liguria.  She also encounters a whole new set of customs and expectations that revolve around the new man in her life, and even more so his mother.

What I love:

  1.  I love the new characters we meet, and their specific histories.  Some in particular provide a poignant insight into the realities of that time, and their seemingly old-fashioned preoccupations.
  2. Again, the food.  The descriptions of the culinary customs and their cooking methods draw you in to the pages, and are a not insignificant component of the charm of these books.
  3. The dating rituals!  The comparison between the seemingly anonymous and frequently fragmented nature of modern dating, and the all-consuming and expectant lore of Liguria is refreshing, comforting and something of a relief to the reader.

My Favourite Quotes:

  1. “Anna, registering the great competence of the Lad from the Restaurant, is clearly considering very carefully the correct moral position to take in this irregular situation.  After all, a man who bears himself so nobly in the teeth of a major tomato crisis is not easily come by.”
  2. “Salvatore saves me from answering by suddenly going ballistic.  I have no idea what it’s about- he’s shouting his head off, mostly in Calabrian dialect, and I will never be as multilingual as your average Italian peasant farmer.”
  3. “Do you have to be an Italian to get a decent meal round here?’ They will suddenly shout.  ‘Why are we getting this second-class treatment?  What have you got against Germans, anyway?’ they may add, if German.  ‘The war was over 50 years ago! ‘ And so on.  Having suffered greatly myself through not understanding this booking business in earlier times- though since I’m English I just took it personally and not politically’… I have no trouble understanding how Ciccio’s and Franchino’s poor clients must feel.”

Gretchen Rubin- The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

What it’s about:

This is Gretchen Rubin’s account of how she created a 12 month ‘Happiness Project’ to see if she could create a happier life within her existing circumstances.  She chooses a different area of focus for each month of the year, and creates a series of resolutions to help her improve her own behaviour, and establish whether this has an impact on her personal happiness, and that of those around her.

What I love:

  1. The systematic and thorough way in which she approaches the project.  This is a really practical and empowering guide to improving existing circumstances, but more importantly evaluating how one’s own behaviour and outlook can have a transformative effect on personal happiness.
  2. I found her honesty on what she considers her flaws to be refreshing, and it gave clear emphasis to the individuality of each person’s journey.  This book is about sharing ideas for how to make your own life happier, not a ‘How-To’ guide.
  3. This is a really funny book! Tackling a subject that could easily be didactic and overly earnest, Rubin combines insights on her own (undoubtedly extensive) research, with amusing anecdotes about her own successes, failures, and the impact on her often unsuspecting family and friends.

My Favourite Quotes:

  1. “One day I’d stop twisting my hair, and wearing running shoes all the time, and eating exactly the same food every day.” (I could literally have said these exact words, and the moment I saw this, I was in).
  2. “Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate, and a fresh opportunity.
  3. “The First Splendid Truth: To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.”

Annie Hawes- Extra Virgin

Extra Virgin Annie Hawes

What it’s about:

Another that I first read several years ago, and now reread without exception before/ on every summer holiday.  In a nutshell, this is the first in a series of books written by Hawes (though the second one I read) accounting her move to rural Italy (Liguria specifically).  It details her attempts to befriend the locals and generally function as one of the very rustic community.

This is a very humorous but endearing account of her plight as an ignorant foreigner, and she writes with evident affection for the community in which she lives, despite her ability to offend all and sundry at every opportunity.

What I love:

  1. I can’t open this book without feeling like I’m about to eat delicious Italian food and drink delicious Italian wine (not that awful shop bought stuff of course) ideally at a festa of some description.
  2. The vivid descriptions of the sights, sounds and customs of the locals provokes a real sense of peace as well as providing entertainment with numerous anecdotes that are at times humorous and at others deeply poignant.
  3. Gaining genuine insight into the history and customs of rural Italy, and Liguria in particular.

My Favourite Quotes:

    1. “Luigi has taken to sitting and chatting with us whenever he has a quiet moment.  He has educated himself in defiance of the class system that would keep him down; and he is still busy researching.  Why, he wants to know, has the British aristocracy bred so many radicals? Is there any connection between the Labour party and socialism? What is our attitude towards the Irish struggle for national liberation?”
    2. “Franco is the only one who has fathomed the depths of the profound misunderstanding going on here.  Pompeo is selling fifty olive trees and a piece of arable land that just happens to have a useless rustic building on it… We on the other hand, are buying a lovely rustic dwelling with a large garden which just happens to contain fifty olive trees.”
    3. “Tonight we obligingly horrify everyone by putting salad on the plate with our pasta.  Salad, of course, is not eaten with the pasta.  Salad comes afterwards.  It could easily, Maria explains. snatching it back off again with her serving tongs, make the pasta curdle in your stomach”.