AML – 5 stars
A lively and funny memoir with a journalist’s eye for detail and a novelist’s ear for phrasing. (‘The distant hills are baking in a blue haze.’)
None of the standard travel-writing cliches here. (No villages ‘nestled in the hillside’). Just a wonderfully ragged grab-bag of unlikely destinations and improvised dislocations, with a deeply English attitude to weather issues. (‘It’s lashing with rain, but we go out anyway.’)
While the main pleasures are drawn from the breezy and – yes, Brysonesque – take on cultural quirks, there’s a heart-stopping account of an earthquake in rural Italy, and an elegiac tribute to the author’s childhood home which tells how, in the face of family breakdown, a home becomes a house and, later, in the bleach of memory, is revealed as something deeper: both nostalgic and nurturing.