Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls by Sophia Bar-Lev

In the Prologue to Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls we meet a quartet of women who have retired to Tuscany.  They are each very unique, yet their friendship seems strong.  They clearly have met only after arriving in Florence, Italy, because their backgrounds are too diverse to have brought them together before their retirement.  I immediately felt curiosity about this group of women, and I wanted to read more.

The women love Italy.  More specifically, they love Tuscany and the relaxed way of life they find there, and the region's nature.  Here is a quote about their favorite part of Tuscany's nature:
They often joked that the past and the poppies drew them to this locale.  Vast fields of flame read poppies in the landscape ere almost synonymous with Tuscany and all things Tuscan.

It is refreshing to encounter a novel that boldly features not just one mature protagonist, but four mature protagonists!  This is the first book in a series.  The second book, Pizza and Promises, is reviewed on this site.  The author does not shy away from their long histories, nor does she make the women feeble of body or mind.  Here is a quote that tells us that despite their pasts, they are still able to live in the moment.
They look so relaxed, so happily engaged in the present moment, these four women drinking cappuccinos and savoring the creamy cannolis.  To be sure, real life had collided, not always gently, with the dreams and plans of their youth but the casual observer at CafĂ© Toscana couldn't begin to imagine the kaleidoscope of experiences hidden behind the lovely smiles of four mature women basking in the magic of a sunny afternoon in Florence.

We learn the history of the four women, through lovely vignettes from their lives.  The author continues to move back and forth between the women and their pasts, until, after many deft vignettes, I felt as if I had known these women and their loved ones for much of their lives. 

As befits mature women, the story gives plenty of attention to the women's rich pasts, but we don't stay in the past.  We leap into the present, in Florence, and into the new events that occur to shake up their retirements.  Throughout the new adventures, the warmth of the women's friendship is a thing of awe, something to admire and to wish for oneself, to be honest.

The author, who provided me with a review-copy of her e-book edition, moves easily and assuredly between countries, characters, and events past and present.  Her style is direct, clear, warm and inviting. The story moves along swiftly, but not too swiftly.  We are allowed moments to live vicariously in Florence, Italy, along with the four, lovely, life-rich women who share the protagonist role in this novel. 

There is lots of good food and drink in the book, and plenty of good cheer, and laughter and tears.  The story  progresses nicely to a heartwarming end.  Those of you who enjoy this kind of novel, about mature, affectionate, lively women, will be happy to know that there is a sequel, Pizza and Promises (soon to be reviewed on this site). 

From the book's description:
Four mature women from different parts of the world have chosen Tuscany as their retirement haven, expecting a quiet and tranquil existence.  Little did they realize the adventures that awaited them.  As their lively friendship develops, the best and the worst of each woman's past experiences and memories begin to emerge and just when you think you know what's next, a completely unexpected twist in the story will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime.

You'll laugh and you'll cry with Carmela, Janet, Cecilia and Paula Jean. You'll walk through the streets of Florence with them and you'll swear you can smell the aroma of Italian cappuccinos.  You'll partake of their struggles and celebrate their joys and when you reach the final page, you'll feel as if they could easily be your next door neighbors, your best friends.  This is a real life book, based on real life women, who embrace each day with gusto, live their senior life to the maximum and invite you to do the same.

Here is the book's trailer:

Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls is available as a Kindle e-book and a paperback edition.  Here are links to the editions at

Please visit the author's website.

I'll leave you with a lovely, two-minute video postcard of Tuscany:

This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

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