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I was a bit disappointed in Four Seasons in Rome, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the world by Anthony Doerr. I have spent time in Rome myself and did enjoy reading about the bits of Rome with which I am familiar. On the other hand, I was annoyed that Doerr had acquired a grant to spend time in Rome writing his Magnus Opus and instead ended up writing what appears to be a diary of how to cope with Roman traffic while pushing a pram containing his babies around the streets. Anyone who has twins is going to have insomnia, and living with twins in an unfamiliar city where you don't speak the language is going to be even more difficult. Doerr is mildly amusing but I felt the story could have been better and although he did evoke a sense of place I found it difficult to emphasise with him and his wife when they appeared to be luxuriating as opposed to the lives of those around them who were bringing up children in more difficult circumstances. I did not suffer from insomnia while reading this book, I found it an effective soporific.
I enjoyed this diary type description of life in. Rome. It is not up to the standard of other Doerr works. The average person would not find his twin babies and their early progress particularly enchanting, though having travelled on an Italian liner with blonde triplets, the greetings and exclamations were nostalgic. I gained little insight into Rome, rain dominated his walks while I am sure sunny days were very frequent. He describes the hot humidity but not the bright cheerful mornings! His ventures into Umbria were the most inviting chapters.
I'd read some of this author's fictional books and thought to give this one a try, particularly since I have relatives who live in Italy and have spent some time in Rome. It's the story of how the author spent a year in that city with his wife and new born twins. He writes evocatively so I felt I was in Rome in many of his descriptions. There seems to be a tendency for certain people to go and live somewhere else without researching anything of that country, their customs or their language, and so they remain "strangers in a strange land". But perhaps the author didn't have time to do that! I like his work but didn't really warm to this one.
The construction of the book and the way the story was set out in seasons was interesting. I found his detail of the area of Rome he lived in enlightening. But his constant indulgences and obsession with his wife and twins was irritating and eventually lost my interest. Apart from the big funeral, there was very little storyline to grab me.
This will be an interesting read for first time travellers to Rome and others who have not travelled often to Europe. Doerr's own experience reinforces the magic of the Old World whose charm is captivating and confirms that travel to new places helps us to remember how to see the world through a child's eyes.