A worthy, if sometimes-rambling, read that will appeal to those who may be thinking about a remodel of their own.

A debut memoir of moving to Italy and extensively remodeling a house.

After American author Reynolds’ first husband died by his own hand, she traveled to Italy to take time off. On returning to Boston, where she wrote for the Boston Globe, she fell in love with an Italian man, Umberto, and ended up moving with him to the Italian island of Sardinia, after he’s offered a teaching position there. They buy a fixer-upper in the countryside, which they proceed to remodel, and pay great attention to the details. When Umberto later expressed dismay at the ugliness of white electrical outlets in an American luxury condo, Reynolds replied that Americans don’t see “beautiful palaces and frescoes” from the time they’re born; they see “Strip malls, big box stores and billboards.” Umberto countered: “Form contains function. That’s what makes Italian cars and motorbikes the best in the world.” Over the course of this book, Reynolds tells how she embraced this aesthetic as the couple knocked down walls and made a guest house out of a garage. The remodeling became not just a project, but also a way of life—if one is going to lift the cabinets to change the tile, shouldn’t one also change the cabinets themselves? The text tends to meander at times, as the projects mount. However, the writing is solid, overall, with notable moments; later in the memoir, for example, the author stresses that all was not an HGTV fantasy, as Sardinia had a dark side. At one point, she tells of seeing a dead dog hanging from a fence, its throat had been slit by a farmer or shepherd after it threatened some chickens. Reynolds, who’s African-American, also notes that she never got used to the stares that she received at the market from white locals. When Umberto was offered a temporary job at Harvard, Reynolds bought an apartment in Boston—which, of course, led to other building projects.

A worthy, if sometimes-rambling, read that will appeal to those who may be thinking about a remodel of their own. 

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-418-6

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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