Love in Idleness by Amanda Craig

Love in Idleness by Amanda Craig

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 337 pages, 2003

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: The title, mentioned by a member of BookCrazy, spurred me to check it out.

Synopsis: Polly and her husband Theo have rented a house in Tuscany for two weeks of sweltering summer vacation for them and their two children, and staying with them are Polly’s mother-in-law from hell, Betty; and a mishmash of single relatives and friends. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the adults find themselves chasing love while the children experiment with the magic that can only be found in such a beautiful and exotic country.

Why you should read this book: While the story may be an updated Shakespearian story, Craig has made each and every character her own, brimming with life and loves and hates, which is made more impressive by the large number of characters and the relatively few number of pages. Craig also manages to portray the beauty of Tuscany without losing sight of the characters. The perfect read for either a hazy summer night or to warm up to on a winter’s evening.

Why you should avoid this book: It’s nice to know at least the rough idea of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to fully appreciate the storyline, but the book stands well on its own two legs. The story is very character-based, so Love in Idleness is not recommend if you’re in the mood for action.

Opening paragraph:

The long wooden shutters of the Casa Luna, bolted against heat and crime, were flung open, and the light of a new day flooded in. Pia turned her back to it and began to sweep. There was always dust: dust from the ancient, crumbling plaster, dust from the great dark oak beams of the ceiling, dust from long-forgotten visitors, and dust from the bone white roads of the country. As Pia’s plump figure bent and stretched, a fine cloud of glittering motes rose, swarming as if alive. She knew they’d be back, as they always were, but she captured what she could with her broom.

Fabulous quotes:

‘Book no good?’ asked Hemani. She herself was rereading Room with a View, and finding it had, in that mysterious way of good novels, altered. When she first read it as a teenager, she had taken all it said about being on the side of youth, beauty, music, and socialism very seriously. Then, she had turned to fiction as a way of mapping out areas of human wisdom and experience that she had not yet encountered. Now, she understood that it was a comedy – a comedy of a very unusual and enchanting kind, but still a comedy. She wondered how she could possibly have missed this before. Was it that good novels, like real people, revealed different aspects of themselves according to the reader’s capacity to understand them at the time? Or had she just been stupid with solemnity, like most teenagers?

Tania made faces of fury. They were supposed not to be working, but they didn’t act like that. Mum said absently, ‘Very good, darling,’ but only glanced at it. Ivo actually warned her against becoming a poet, saying that when he had worked on a newspaper, he had been sent dozens every day, all written in green ink by lunatics. Mean old Meenu said she didn’t read poetry. Uncle Dan was playing chess against Bron and Robbie again. Grandma swatted her away like a fly. The mortification that swiftly follows any act of creation was new to her, and she had no defences against it except rage. They were all stupid, stupid, even Ellen, who just wanted to get all lovey-dovey with Uncle Dan. They gave presents to Robbie for being naughty, and none to her. Who wanted to come and live in this nasty hot house anyway? It would serve them right if she made a poison.

Also recommended: Last Summer at Barebones by Diane Baker Mason; Summer Sisters by Judy Blume; A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

Also by this author: Foreign Bodies; A Private Place; A Vicious Circle; In a Dark Wood.

Author’s website:

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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