Book review: Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia

Unlike Dante’s warning at the entrance to hell, all hope is not lost to ‘ye who enters here. I am speaking, of course, to those of us who find ourselves adrift now that Downton Abbey has come to an end. For Downton creator/writer/producer Julian Fellowes has a new historical fiction novel out – Belgravia. Like…

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Spectacular views over medieval Orvieto, Umbria

Whenever I visit towns or cities, I seek out the highest point to enjoy birds’ eye views over it. Strangely, I’d never been to the Umbrian town of Orvieto’s highest point. So when I found myself exploring this picturesque medieval town earlier this month with my two sons, I set out to remedy this. My…

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Can books teach their authors?

“A good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.” -Umberto Eco Yet more wisdom from the recently deceased Italian author Umberto Eco (1932-2016). I’d never thought of this before, but once I read it I knew it to be true. How many of us…

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Bad propaganda and Trabis at Berlin’s DDR Museum

I was in Berlin last month with my family. My son had prepared his Middle School exam on Berlin after World War II: the end of the war, the four Allied zones,the rise of the Soviet zone, the Berlin airdrops, the building of the Wall, the DDR, the fall of the Wall and reunification, and…

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The “perfection” of first drafts

“Every first draft is perfect. Because all a first draft has to do is exist. Jane Smiley Love these wise words from talented author Jane Smiley. It’s a new year, and you probably have been mulling over your writing goals (dare I call them resolutions?) for the year ahead. What a nice way to keep…

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More than steel in Piombino, Tuscany

When my husband and I went to the Tuscan island of Elba a couple of years ago for a wedding (see my earlier post about Napoleon’s former Empire), we took the ferry over from the town of Piombino, a small town on the Tyrrhenian Sea of the Mediterranean. This area has been inhabited ever since…

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A happy writing New Year!

How on earth does it happen each year? 2017 already! To all you writers out there, now that the champagne bubbles have gone flat and the fireworks and holiday parties are only a faint memory, now’s the time to buckle down and start a new writing year with enthusiasm. I know that I’m one of those…

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Sprinting around the aqueducts of Rome’s Tor Fiscale Park

It’s great raising your kids in another culture and enjoying the differences in their upbringing. I reflect on this a lot as I take my younger son, a track and field and cross-country athlete, to his competitions. For his weekly workouts, he trains, arguably (for others, clearly not for me), at the most beautiful stadium…

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