Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr: Quite Possibly My Favorite Book of The Year So Far

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“Barricades reemerge: language, culture, time. To be a non-fluent foreigner is to pass through one gate only to find yourself outside two more.”

It has been a long time since I flew to Europe bringing two suitcases with a frying pan ensconced in one, certain that I would need it for my role as a new bride. Anthony Doerr has recreated all those feelings, of being a stranger in a new world, with this magnificent book. I read it slowly today, savoring the virtual trip to Italy interspersed with sentiments I’ve so often felt myself.

“I can’t help but wonder, as I saw with a bread knife at the seam of a package, about technology and the sprint that is a modern life. Is progress really a curve that seeps perpetually higher? Wasn’t packaging (or toy making or cobbling or winemaking or milk or cheese or cement, for that matter) often better three hundred  or seven hundred or nineteen hundred years ago?”

My mother passed this book to me after she read All The Light We Cannot See and searched the library for every book by Doerr that she could find. It is a novel I’ve started three times, but never been able to finish. Perhaps now I can, for surely Four Seasons in Rome has been a remarkable reverie.

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32 thoughts on “Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr: Quite Possibly My Favorite Book of The Year So Far

  1. I read a wonderful essay by Doerr in Conde Nast about macarons. Since then, I keep reminding myself to buy his other publications, including this book you write about. I love his lyrical prose and, unlike you, think All the Light We Cannot See is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Monday morning, I will purchase this book about Rome and dream of traveling overseas. You can read the article here.

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    • It is because of you that I was so interested in All The Light You Cannot See. My mother loved it as much as you do, and I cannot think why I couldn’t get past page 30. It is next on my list, for I loved this one. I kept thinking of you the whole time was reading. xo

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      • If you need the encouragement, I will read this with you this summer. I rarely ever re-read books, but this is one I would be happy to revisit.

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  2. Is the winemaking passage meant as a joke? Setting aside the rest of the passage. I can barely imagine what he means by packaging. The sack in which I would have carried my barley to the mill to be ground? Yes, those were great sacks they had back then.

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    • To me he is expressing frustration about how things today are supposed to be so much better than they were, and they often aren’t. Maybe I have a certain nostalgia for the past, but I do find myself thinking about how Tolstoy and Dickens wrote beautiful books, and they had no word processor in sight.

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      • Shouldn’t the specific examples of his frustration, though, not be nonsense? Does he actually know something about 1900-year old packaging, or is he just blowing smoke? Everything on his list has an actual history, available to anyone actually interested

        If Doerr had picked novels, rather than wine, or cheese, I wouldn’t have said anything. But I know a wine school in Bordeaux – come to think of it, also a cheese shop in Bordeaux – that Doerr really ought to visit.

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  3. I’ve yet to read Doerr, but sounds like I need to. I have All the Light We Cannot See on my shelf – perhaps its finally time to pick it up. That’s wonderful you enjoyed it so much 🙂 I just love when books are worth savoring – those are the ones that make the deepest impressions. Great post!

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    • Sounds like you, Lesley and I should read it together; the only “problem” is picking a time. I have quite the schedule with La Regenta, of a mere 700 pages, on my plate for Spanish Lit Month and Wuthering Expectations in July. But this one was definitely worth savoring; great way to put it!

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  4. I am one of the people who really enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See and I’ve been meaning to read through his backlist. I am always impressed by writers who can tackle fiction and nonfiction!

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    • It would make a great gift, Edgar! Not too long, not too short, not too heavy, not too trite. I think it would appeal to so many people, even those who don’t love Italy as much as I do.

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  5. I struggled with All the Light too but did get to the end eventually and wondered what all the fuss was about. This book sounds far more interesting.

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    • I wonder if that’s how I’ll feel when I finish it. Now I’m all the more curious to find out. So many people whose opinion I trust implicitly have loved it, and then there are those who don’t.

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  6. I have All the Light you Cannot See waiting to be read this summer… Your comments made it even more intriguing 🙂

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  7. I enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See but I keep hearing that his earlier works are fabulous too.
    Looks like another one to add to my TBR.

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  8. Subject: Anthony Doerr is Missing a “Dash”

    If Anthony Doerr has written the following sentence, “To be a non-fluent foreigner is to pass through one gate only to find yourself outside two more,” then he should have inserted an important punctuation, a dash, after the word “gate.”

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  9. All the Lights You Cannot See was my favorite book last year. Just wonderful. Will definitely try this one. I have not really checked out anything else he wrote, since I thought this was his first one. More to enjoy obviously!

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    • I’m so glad that you so highly endorse it, too! I’ve begun All The Light We Cannot See last night, and will have to put up a post as soon as I’m done so we can all have a chat about why we loved it. Or, in a few rare instances, didn’t. But most people rave about it, and my mother has since scoured the town’s library for every book Doerr has published.

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  10. I just read this book recently, and really liked it also! I also have been postponing reading All the Light We Cannot See (because I was getting a little overdosed on WWII books) but after reading the Rome memoir, I really wanted to give it a try, since the author was working on it, or trying to, during his year in Rome. For some reason, I still haven’t, though.

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    • I become very easily weary of WWII books myself; a little goes a long way, as I’ve been to Germany and Holland and know so much of all the atrocities which were committed. Yet I’m glad I’ve just recently picked up All The Light We Cannot See because the writing is beautiful, and as you said, he was surely working on that when in Rome.

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  11. Pingback: 2016 in Review – Dolce Bellezza

  12. Pingback: Books Read in 2016 – Dolce Bellezza

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