Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

Women in Sunlight

Frances Mayes

Women in Sunlight is the story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year.

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By the bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun, and written with Frances Mayes’s trademark warmth, heart, and delicious descriptions of place, food, and friendship, Women in Sunlight is the story of four American strangers who bond in Italy and change their lives over the course of an exceptional year.

She watches from her terrazza as the three American women carry their luggage into the stone villa down the hill. Who are they, and what brings them to this Tuscan village so far from home? An expat herself and with her own unfinished story, she can’t help but question: will they find what they came for?

Kit Raine, an American writer living in Tuscany, is working on a biography of her close friend, a complex woman who continues to cast a shadow on Kit’s own life. Her work is waylaid by the arrival of three women—Julia, Camille, and Susan—all of whom have launched a recent and spontaneous friendship that will uproot them completely and redirect their lives. Susan, the most adventurous of the three, has enticed them to subvert expectations of staid retirement by taking a lease on a big, beautiful house in Tuscany. Though novices in a foreign culture, their renewed sense of adventure imbues each of them with a bright sense of bravery, a gusto for life, and a fierce determination to thrive. But how? With Kit’s friendship and guidance, the three friends launch themselves into Italian life, pursuing passions long-forgotten—and with drastic and unforeseeable results.

Advance Galley Reviews

Women in Sunlight is about 3 women who meet while touring a retirement community that they are considering relocating to. Once they start talking they strike up a friendship which leads them to take a trip to Italy. This story was beautifully written and atmospheric, but I didn't find it all that interesting. The three women, Julia, Camille, and Susan, were different and had somewhat different lives and experiences(however, they were all from the American South), but they all ended up sounding exactly the same. I really couldn't tell them apart for most of the book. They all spoke in this way that was so dreamy and convoluted, that I could not see them as real people. As a matter of fact ALL the women in this book sounded the same, even Julia's daughter, who had to be MUCH younger and was a drug addict. There is another main character, Kit, who is a bit younger than the main three women and is kind of the narrator of the story. Kit is also writing a book about her mentor who is deceased. I found Kit's storyline the least interesting as I couldn't understand why we should care about this book she is writing about this person who has no other connection to the story. The book is filled with beautiful descriptions of the Italian countryside, villages, people and food, which was probably the strongest part of this book. However, I couldn't find any connection to the characters or any purpose to the story, aside from the fact that you can reinvent yourself no matter how old you are.

I was really excited to read this novel. I thought it would be something up my alley and that I would definitely enjoy. I was wrong in the beginning it’s very long and I felt like it dragged too much for me so unfortunately I DNF this novel. I just couldn’t get into this.

As with Under the Tuscan Sun, I want to like Women in Sunlight better than I do. The ideas of reinvention at any age and the strength of friendships between women appeal to me. Unfortunately, the story itself seems to drag. At times, it is confusing because of the number of characters and back stories. At times, it is a little too idyllic for my taste. Everything seems to come or resolve itself too easily. Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2018/06/women-in-sunlight.html Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

This is not a quick read, but it well worth the time. I love Frances Mayes writing and she doesn't disappoint in this book. Her descriptions of Italy make me feel like I'm back there. This book makes me want to rent a villa and move to Italy for a year. Not likely to happen, so at least I can live vicariously through the characters in this book. I highly suggest you add this book to your summer reading list.

Thank you First to Read for my advance reading copy of this book. It took me quite a while to work my way through this book--it was quite a slog. I was so interested in reading this book after reading the synopsis and found it unique and refreshing that the main characters were a few older women. And while reading, I did find the main characters, Julia, Camille, and Susan, to be interesting and dynamic. They were powerful, independent, and strong women and we need more characters of their age and characteristics in novels we read. However, the story telling was quite slow and it was hard to stay captivated. I found myself reading the book a chapter a day, which rarely happens. I also thought that the book was trying to do too much. I liked the story about Kit and Colin but didn't think that the story about Margaret really added anything special or extra to the book and was more of a sideshow. I think that if the author had focused solely on the story of Julia, Camille, and Susan, the book would have been more captivating, because the author's writing was pretty good and truly transported me to Tuscany.

The description of this book sounded like something I would enjoy, but I absolutely could not get into it. Just way too slow-moving.

I love Frances Mayes's writing. Under the Tuscan Sun is one of my favorite books. The country of Italy becomes a fifth vibrant character in this novel. It feels like with every page you have been transported to sun-dappled Tuscany. Although I did not enjoy as much as Under the Tuscan Sun, it is a well-written beautiful story. I love how Mayes creates these four women who are searching for the next chapter in their lives. Strong amazing women and beautiful landscape and Italian culture are what Mayes writes best. Those elements alone make the book worth the journey.

Although the premise of this booked seemed very compelling to me, I had trouble engaging with the characters. Not sure if it was the pace, seemed to move slowly and was tough to get through all pages, the vocabulary (which although I didn't need a dictionary) made the book seem less approachable... overall not one of my favorites that I've received from first to read.

Delightful tale of the merging of cultures and renewing the passions of life. Good food, good friends, and good wine lead these 4 American women to embrace life changes and chart new courses. Mayes transports readers to Italy, not for a brief visit, but to the depths travelers often do not experience. Read this tale on the plane and you may decide to stay among the locals.

Unfortunately this book was not for me. I had a difficult getting into the book. The vocabulary was more than I expected.

This book was challenging to read and while the premise was interesting, the story failed to take off.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin First to Read. Thank you. Couldn't really get into this book. I've got a pretty strong vocabulary, but found myself in the pages of a dictionary as much as I was in the pages of the actual book. Too dense for me.

I had such a hard time getting through this book. It was boring. It's almost a "blooming" tale of 3 older women and the woman observing them in their life-changing efforts. It really wasn't interesting. The writing was good but there was nothing driving about the book in general. I'm an extremely quick reader and these 400 pages took me weeks.

Unfortunately this book was not for me. I tried several times to make it past the first couple pages but just couldn’t do it.

The story involves three women in their early to late 60s who have suffered losses. They meet at a sales event for an over-55 community and decided that this is not where they want to live. Almost at the beginning of the friendship, they decide to rent a villa in Tuscany for a year. The story is a bit predictable, and I found it a bit hard to believe that everything could fall into place so easily, including new careers. I would have given this four stars if Kit had not been included in the book. Kit's story was told in the first person while the story of the three older women was in the third person which was somewhat jarring. In addition, Kit slowly revealed the story of her mentor, Margaret, which was not necessary to move the plot along. The descriptions of the food and wine, and of Florence and Venice are the real stars of this book. 3 out of 5 stars

Unfortunately, I could not get engaged with this book. While the writing style is lovely, it made it difficult for me to navigate through and I got bogged down. The premise appealed to me but I failed to enjoy the book.

This book didn't grab me.

Mayes adores Italy with a passion that is nearly blinding at times. Her story literally pulsates with the traveler's love of place - and though I was a bit nervous at her transfer from nonfiction to fiction, she's exceeded every expectation. My only thought? How magical would any other place be under the spell of her pen! Next time, I want a Mayes ticket beyond Italy, to somewhere new!

In her new book, Frances Mayes has woven a Tuscan tapestry in which four American women come to meet. Each woman is on the brink of self discovery. Mayes weaves the beauty of Tuscany, its delicious recipes and the strength of friendship into the story of each woman's reawakening to self and others. Women in Sunlight is a delightful read, perfect for the beach. Swept away on the warm breezes of Italy you will discover inner truths we all must face. The cast of characters is cleverly devised. The women and their Italian neighbors come alive. The setting is warm and welcoming. Recommended.

Though I cannot relate exactly to the lives of the women in this book, I found myself engrossed in their stories - though at times, they were difficult to follow. That is to say, the storyline of the book is much better than its execution, unfortunately. Changing from first person (Kit's voice) to third person narrative, it often switches from character to character mid-scene, causing the reader uncertainty in which voice they should be reading - or whose story is being told. That being said, I enjoyed the lushly described scenery and adventurous spirits of the characters, and recommend this book to anyone who likes long, flowery prose.

I love reading books about Americans in Europe to see what their view is of the food, the people, and the history. This book is really several stories woven into one. It starts off a bit slow, but then it got more interesting as we delved deeper into each woman's life and explored the painful circumstances that brought each of them to the present. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but it was a bit long. The food descriptions alone made it worth the read.

What a great story! I loved reading the descriptions of the food and learning about the lives of these women.

After having had the opportunity to live in Italy for several years, I was quite excited to read this book. I was looking forward to reflecting back upon the country that I fell in love with some time ago. With that said, after reading this book, I tend to believe this story will have a polarizing effect on readers. Readers who love it will fall in love with the atmospheric prose. The book is filled with beautiful descriptions of both places stateside and abroad. The various women in the book have experiences that occur once they are in Italy (such as learning how various forms of paper is made, lessons in Italian cooking, and visiting small boutiques that are quite different from American bookstores). The descriptions and experiences are able to transform the reading experience completely and make the reader fill as if he or she is taking part in the on-goings. With that said, other readers may find themselves yearning for more of an actual story. Essentially, three older women are considering a retirement type home because various circumstances have let them each alone. After spending time together and bonding at one of the women's beach house, the trio decide to take up residence in Tuscany. At their new home, they meet up with an American writer who lives next door. Eventually, these women all join together to forge new lives in Italy. It's a good plot but readers must be prepared for a story that very slowly unfolds and is filled with an incredible amount of detail (perhaps too much). This is a story that is meant to be savored. I'm not sure this will work for many readers though. It's easy to become distracted or bored by the extensive details at times. Overall, this was not one of my favorite books but I can see where it has the potential to be so for others.

This book had promise, but did not follow through. The first person narrator, Kit Raines, was unbearable, and while the other women were more engaging the writing style was odious. There were so many scenes of the author explicitly saying "something terrible happened" rather than implying it, but the result wasn't to make the reader more engaged but to make the reader roll their eyes and say "just tell us, already." As other reviewers mentioned, the narration between the three Americans would switch frequently and without warning. Much of this book felt like the author showing off her wit and intelligence (which makes me wonder how much if it she has) rather than telling a compelling story. I would not recommend.

I was excited about finally getting a book to review. Unfortunately, this novel was not for me. I loved the idea of older women moving to Italy to live out their lives how they want, not how others around them want them to live. I found the narration extremely hard to follow. It would change in the middle of a paragraph, which made the characters hard to relate to. I got confused a lot on who was talking and doing what. I also thought it was different how Kit was in first person, but the rest of the story was told in third person. Also, the descriptions in this story are extremely long. I would find myself getting confused about what was being described, especially after the Italian was thrown in. I did think the idea was novel, but not executed well. This story lacked momentum, and I had to put it down halfway through and am unable to finish it.

I wanted to like this book. But it was just a hard read for me. Women in the Sunlight is very wordy, with a lot of Italian, I assume to set the scene but really was just superfluous. The whole book was straightforward and I felt it lacked heart as well as having a slow-moving plot. Frances Mayes is certainly a descriptive writer. Women in the Sunlight also just kind of stops. I don't know if Mayes was gearing up for a sequel or was just so bored with her own story she couldn't figure out what to do with the characters.

I was very excited when I was chosen to review this book by Frances Mayes as from the description it seemed like a book I would love. Unfortunately that was not the case. The author seemed to take great delight in showing how smart she is. Explaining what Italian last names mean, using obscure words when simpler ones might have worked better. Then there is the story itself switching back and forth between Kit narrating in the first person and three friends who decide to rent a villa in Italy across the street from Kit. The women were at least interesting, Kit bored me. I have to admit I got so bored with the whole thing that I just stopped reading. A lot of people seemed to love the book so please read other reviews.

Unfortunately I just couldn't get through this book. I read about half of it and kept waiting for it to keep my attention, but it did not. I had a difficult time following and just couldn't get into the story line with Margaret and Kit. I wish the story was just about the three women and their adventures. There were times when the narrator changed from one paragraph to another and I would have to go back or re-read the passage in order to follow it. If I had more time with the book I would probably try to finish it to see how it ended for the three women who moved to Italy.

I loved the Italy that the book depicts as it's also the country that I saw while traveling. I enjoyed their stories and the message that the book conveys about starting fresh "in sunlight" and the bond that the women develop. It's quite something to aspire to. But I've also had a hard time following the plot. It was a bumpy ride from the beginning. I think I would've found this project one of the best of the year if it weren't for the style in which it was written. It's just not for me.

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes, was a lovely read. Rich with descriptions that transported you to several locations through the characters adventures. Well developed characters facing real issues. I would recommend it to others.

Camille, Julia and Susan meet when they are looking at possibly moving into a retirement home and soon forge a strong bond with each other. After a few weekends at a beach home belonging to Susan, they decide to spread their wings, regain some adventure and lease a house in the small Tuscan village of San Rocco for a year. They fall in love with the villagers, the town and the countryside quickly; they also form a close friendship with an American expat writer who lives in the village. Learning to speak Italian, refurbishing the old stone farmhouse and gardens, having new friends and new adventures helps them find their creative selves again enjoying renewed passions in art, gardening and cooking. There are lush descriptions of the countryside, food and the daily lives of the women and village people. There is romance. There are descriptive travels to other cities in Italy. It is a sensual, poetic novel that is a wonderful escape for a time; I almost felt like I was sharing the experiences with the characters.

Try as I might I just couldn't get through this book. I don't abandon books often but I finally had to stop with this one. The style of the writing and the characters just weren't grabbing my attention and it seemed to drag on without going anywhere. Unfortunate, but this one just wasn't for me.

What a delicious book. The description of locations and especially the food were just amazing. I felt like I was right there, sitting at the table, tasting and smelling everything. I love when a book can transport me like that.

I loved the overall feel of the locations throughout this book and really became attached to the four women in the book. I would be interested in seeing a movie and definitely did not want to see this story end. I read Under the Tuscan Sun a long time ago and there were a lot of similarities between these books. I received this book as an ARC from First to Read and will definitely be reading more books by this author in the future.

Loved this book...the descriptions of San Rocco were wonderful and I think I could smell the cooking in the villa. I can see this being made into a movie...maybe Helen Mirren and Susan Sarandon and some other great dames...what a movie it would make. Plus I want their story to continue...

This book makes me want to travel. In the book, we meet the women with their own stories and how they take on the world. The book was full of imagery and struck just the right note in my wanderlust.

This was the first book I've read through First to Read. I started the book and thought, "What have I done?" I was basically lost for at least the first half of the book. Lots of Italian words (although she does define some in later sentences) and lots of words in English that I didn't know the meaning of. I was glad I was reading on my tablet so that I could instantly look most of them up. However, it was very distracting and disruptive to the story to have to do so. I was especially lost when the narrator (Kit) was writing from her point of view. It was much better when the other three main characters, who were middle/older women who were no longer married, were having their story told. Frances Mayes can obviously write flowery, pretty prose. It was just wasted on me. I much preferred the basic story telling. I loved the concept of the three women renting a villa in Tuscany instead of going to a retirement home. Loved the late romance aspect. Loved the surprise for Kit. There was just too much extra, hard to wade through stuff for me. Maybe great for an English class where all the symbolism is picked apart, etc.? That said, if ever I'm robbed I hope they leave me three kittens, too! You'll have to read the book to understand!

Frances Mayes provides us with another vicarious visit to Tuscany with several jaunts to other areas of Italy. I felt I could see and smell the beautiful gardens, taste the always exquisite meals with numerous accompanying varieties of wine and become exhausted by the three main characters who range in age from 60 to 70. They were all so constantly active, it wore me out just to read about it. The book was a bit too long and had too many story lines and extraneous characters but it was well written. Her prose is very poetic but sometimes a bit high-flown. Such as, if fatidic means fated, just say so. All said, I probably would rather read Under the Tuscan Sun again.

I actually finished this book a few weeks ago. First, let me say how thrilled I was when I saw that Frances Mayes had a new book coming out, and then to request and receive a free copy of it electronically? I was thrilled! I fell in love with the book almost from the start. The characters are all at about the same point in life; women of a certain age and stage, all contemplating settling into life at a facility that makes life easier for seniors. They meet as they tour the place. All agree it is seemingly beautiful and peaceful; but they wonder if they are ready for that moment in time; that "next step", so to speak. The three women become friends and begin spending time together. A weekend at the beach brings up the curious idea of renting a house together for a year in Tuscany, and their friendship and adventure are sealed. As the women move into their rental villa, the expat neighbor watches them with curiosity, and soon all become fast friends; life opening up and changing for all four of them. If you have ever had that Italian dream; the dream of la dolce vita, this is the book for you. I want to be these women; I want to form friendships as they did and live in Italy for a year in a Tuscan villa, exploring Florence and Venice, making paper, art, food - living the good life. Thank you Frances Mayes, for the gift of this book and for taking me to a beautiful world with your words.

I tried. I really wanted to love this book and was so excited that the women came from the South and wanted to uproot their lives to follow a dream or; should I say, fantasy of living in Italy. The first glimpse into the lives of the characters had me hoping and feeling very connected to their story lines. It just kept dragging on from there. The stories seem pedestrian, someone stays home to cook or just relax, another goes into the village and meets interesting (not really) people, It was a bit tedious. I know this author has way more talent than I could ever hope to have, but I just couldn’t get into it. I made it 40% through and just had to stop. I will pick it up again in a few weeks and see if I am in a better place to get invested in the story, but for now, I can’t continue.

I am one of author Frances Mayes many fans, at least I thought I was. And she writes of places/topics close to my heart: the SF Bay Area, North Carolina, seasonal cooking, and replacement families forged from heartache. WOMEN IS SUNLIGHT touches all of those topics, dutifully. Therein lies the problem with this book. It lacks cohesion. There is always a problem when the narrator is required to explain the connective tissue of the various strands of the book to herself and the reader because it isn’t clear to either. The explanation doesn’t hold true and doesn’t justify the reading experience. There’s too much folded into this book, some of which just should have been dropped; saved for another book. The best story involves three women who decide to opt out of a senior-living environment and set out for Italy together. They’ve just met and it’s a real leap of faith. Side-stories just don’t measure up and detract, persistently, from their tale. We don’t get nearly enough about them and their interactions with their newfound world. I began to skip the other parts. Mayes is a better writer than this. I received my copy from Penguin’s First to Read program.

I was interested in the premise, but I just couldn't get into this book. I think it moved a bit slow for my taste. I read the first fifty pages and felt like I didn't really know the characters, nor did I care about them enough to continue reading. I also wasn't a huge fan of narrator from the first chapter, I didn't like the conceit of her being a writer and watching the four women. It fell a bit flat for me.

The story began a little slow, but got a little better as the story went on. It is very similar to the book Under the Tuscan Sun. It was a very entertaining story about there older women venturing places in Italy. A good book to take during a vacation.

Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes takes place in Italy. The descriptions of the villas and the food makes me want to travel back to Italy. Three older women meet at a retirement home in the United States. Instead of moving to the retirement home, they decide to rent a villa in Italy. During their time there they get a fresh beginning to explore their interests like gardening, art, and cooking. Their neighbor in Italy is a younger woman who is a poet and is the narrator of this story. It reminded me a lot of Under the Tuscan Sun. It was enjoyable and I felt like I was on a vacation while reading it. The book will be released on April 3rd. I received this from First to Read in return for my honest review.

This is a story of three single women of a certain age who meet at an open house at an independent living facility for seniors. They begin talking and decide they really aren’t ready for this particular chapter in their life. They also take a liking to each other and decide to go to Italy together instead. There were elements to the story that I enjoyed, but it seemed more like a travel book than a novel. You will travel with the women to different places in Italy, meet many people with whom they share food, wine and friendship, all of which are described in very lengthy detail. If you are a fan of Hallmark movies, you will enjoy this book. I am a fan of Frances Mayes and have enjoyed several of her other books. This was not my favorite.

I really did like the story line. But, the beginning was too rambling. It was hard to catch what and where the story is going. The story of Margaret was distracting. I feel it would have been better to have the story of Camille, Susan and Julia running along side Kit's story and have the stories converge when they all meet rather than the rambling beginning. But know I will suggest this book to friends.


More to Explore

  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Bella Tuscany
  • In Tuscany
  • A Year in the World

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