Wendi's Reviews > A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes
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bookshelves: biography-memoir, travel, england, france, greece, italy, scotland

It seems blasphemous to give a book which has been personally autographed by the author three stars instead of five. Four stars seemed quite possible but considering that I skimmed the last couple of chapters, I'm settling on three.

I did have some of the same complaints about this book as other reviewers such as Mayes and her husband always staying in expensive places and even moving when the places did not meet their high expectations. However, when I thought about it I realized that I have little room to criticize. If I had the kind of money they seem to have, I would stay in the nicer places when possible and I would definitely eat the gourmet meals.

Some people seem critical of Mayes because she has the money to simply travel but I can find no fault in this. We all have certain priorities in life. I cannot count the times that I have chosen to spend whatever money I can scrape together - after sacrifices in other areas of life - on a trip only to have a friend/relative/neighbor snidely say, "Wow, wish I could afford to travel like you", as they climb into their new SUV, drive past their freshly remodeled home, and on to their higher paying jobs. I certainly don't fault them for their choices in life but some people seem to see traveling as a luxury while others see it as a necessity. I haven't been able to travel for a few years now but I still see it as a vital part of life which I hope to return to some day.

The writing is beautiful, though often a bit too bogged down in detail so that even though I enjoyed her descriptions, I still started skimming towards the end.

So why do I (somewhat reluctantly) give A Year in the World only three stars? Because it's not really a year and it's not really in the world. Mayes gathered a number of travel experiences together to make up the collection but didn't really make all the journeys consecutively within a year. And I pictured in the world as truly a larger variety of places scattered throughout the world, not centered in the Mediterranean and mostly throughout western Europe (a bit of the UK is touched upon). She even presents separate "chapters" as different trips which are actually to the same locations previously visited in earlier chapters.

Most of all, and what dropped it a whole star for me, was when Mayes recounted conversations with her husband Ed that would (reportedly) sound like, "...what explains the rise in popularity of flamenco, here and everywhere?" and Ed would reply, "A yearning. This art touches a yearning we have. The unspoken longings way inside the heart." Okay, sure, she loves her husband and wants to include him in the book. I don't have any issue with this. And sure, couples talk philosophically with one another but according to the book they talk like this all the time, in every conversation. And skeptical me, I presume that they either do not really talk like this all of the time which makes it seem as though she's trying to seem pretentious or they really do talk like this all the time and really are pretentious. In either case, if I were eavesdropping in a tourist line behind them, I would be rolling my eyes in short order.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 3, 2008 – Shelved
April 20, 2009 – Shelved as: biography-memoir
April 20, 2009 – Shelved as: travel
April 21, 2009 –
page 1
April 26, 2009 –
page 18
May 1, 2009 –
page 36
May 5, 2009 –
page 49
May 6, 2009 –
page 53
12.62% "Although I am mostly enjoying this I am frustrated by how slowly it reads..."
May 8, 2009 –
page 75
May 12, 2009 –
page 97
May 14, 2009 –
page 138
May 17, 2009 –
page 195
May 18, 2009 –
page 290
September 6, 2009 – Shelved as: england
September 6, 2009 – Shelved as: france
September 6, 2009 – Shelved as: greece
September 6, 2009 – Shelved as: italy
September 6, 2009 – Shelved as: scotland

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message 1: by Bg (new) - added it

Bg Jett It’s not a month of anything remotely meaningful. If you had the money, you’d likely not discuss your overweening capacity to change disdainful place for more comfortable settings. Priggery is a put off.

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