In recent years I’ve become a voracious reader of the memoir genre. I love learning about the interesting lives of other people! In some instances I want to be them and in others I’m glad I’m not them! When I saw that Barnes and Noble was having a travel themed eBook sale I quickly grabbed some of the memoirs. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi happened to be one of these selections!
In this autobiographical tale of food and romance, Marlena De Blasi first takes us to Venice, Italy in the late 1980’s. She is a food journalist and chef, and is on her first trip to Venice. In the Piazza San Marco, a man, whom she affectionately calls “the stranger”, spots her from across the Piazza and instantly falls in love with her from afar. When he sees her again, this time a year later, he decides that it is fate and that they must be together. Marlena, fresh from a divorce, politely declines the man’s affections, thinking herself too damaged and hurt to be of any use in a relationship. However, as luck would have it, only a few short months later she finds herself packing up her life in America to move to Venice and marry this “stranger”. Although the culture shock is enormous, Marlena finds herself embracing the new and exciting smells, sounds, and life that this exciting city has to offer. She cooks traditional American dishes for her new Italian friends to try, while they teach her to dance in the candlelight. Complete with numerous recipes of her own creation, Marlena tells her tale of life and love in one of the most romantic cities in the world.
At the end of this novel, I had very mixed emotions. I’ll start with some of the areas of the work that could use some improvement, then work towards its strengths. Initially, I thought the book was very hectic – I kept reading and felt like I was being thrown all over the place. The concept/true story element is what kept me reading, but the flow of the book was rough. The best way to describe what I mean is it felt like I was reading something that had been translated oddly. It’s extremely difficult to try to explain what I mean here, it wasn’t poor word choices or the story proper, more the way it was structured and pieced together.
Additionally, the relationship between Marlena and “the stranger” seemed really odd at times. He wanted a marriage, yet it was completely one-sided (when he quits his job at the bank, he just does it, even though they discussed waiting till they got their affairs in order). She up and leaves her life and her children in America, moves to Venice for this man, and yet she feels restricted in the things that she can do and say to him. One example is her cooking. Obviously, cooking and food are HUGE parts of her life, having been a chef and restaurateur. She becomes ashamed of this at certain points, and she writes of having to hide her trips to the market. It’s almost as if she has an alternative life outside of her marriage, creating an entirely different life out there with the merchants and market people.
What was great? Her descriptions of Venice and food are astounding. Having been to Italy before (see my recaps here, here, here, here, here, and here) I know that it generates strong feelings in a person. The landscape and buildings are stunning to see. To read her words and thoughts so eloquently put was very rewarding. I found myself at a loss for words on many of the things during my trip to Italy/Spain, so it was rewarding to find someone who could write about the beauty of it all so well. In all, this beautiful imagery that de Blasi is able to conjure up in her book was enough to keep me from becoming too upset over the odd flow of the book. It’s still definitely a worthwhile read for the recipes alone! I can’t wait to try some of them out, they look quite delicious! So, if you’re in the mood for a book that will take you on a mini-tour of all the sights and sounds that Venice has to offer, as well as a personal back story, give A Thousand Days in Venice a try.
3 out of 5 Stars
This is my eleventh completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (2002)
eBook: 288 pages