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Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted August 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Thumbs up from a fellow dog-loving, American expat in Italy.

    Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl About Love by Justine van der Leun is about a young American woman who moves to a small, rural village in Italy on a whim and ends up falling in love with a dog.

    Does it surprise you that I really, really enjoyed this book?

    After becoming smitten with a local Italian ragazzo on vacation, the author packs up her New York City life and transplants herself to Collelungo in Umbria, the Green Heart of Italy. She immediately becomes part of the family, and she is expected to contribute as such. I think it's safe to say this is her first of many culture shocks detailed throughout the book.

    As we learn more about Justine's new surroundings and the people playing prominent roles in her daily life, we also get to know the author through how she handles new, challenging situations. The picture isn't always pretty, but it certainly seems honest. Being able to trust the author of a memoir is always a huge plus.

    Justine's time in the village wasn't full of leisurely days sipping wine under the Umbrian sun and raucous family gatherings by night, and she pulls no punches on this anti-Under the Tuscan Sun lifestyle she adopts. Her fidanzato isn't the most attentive (although he seems like a good enough guy), his brother has a cruel streak to say the least, and common methods of keeping and training animals are heart-wrenching to animal lovers.

    Justine manages to present these tidbits and others in a very matter-of-fact way though, without judgment. It is what it is, if you will, and in many instances, it's been that way for centuries in Collelungo (and other small towns throughout Italy). I can't speak for what the people of Collelungo might think about Justine's perceptions as related in the book, but from my perspective in what seems to be a similar village, they rang fairly accurate.

    But through all the ups and downs of life in Collelungo, Justine's growing love for Marcus, an English pointer she rescues, keeps her grounded - in fact, literally, as she is reluctant to leave town even after her love affair has soured, not knowing what will happen to her beloved pooch. Indeed, the only issue I had with the book is that I would have liked more Marcus!

    Witty, descriptive, well-crafted, and just plain entertaining, this book gets four and a half espresso cups out of five; more Marcus would've had my cup runneth-ing over. Marcus of Umbria is more about Justine's year living in rural Italy than simply a girl meets dog tale, but what it does, it does well - so I highly recommend it.

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    Posted September 8, 2010

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    Posted July 27, 2010

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