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

( 17 )

Overview

People magazine calls Marcus of Umbria “charming”; Marley & Me author John Grogan proclaims that Justine van der Leun “is blessed with the elusive gift of storytelling”; Like Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen calls the book “warm, comic, and beautifully descriptive. I devoured this compassionate and sharply funny book in one sitting.”

 

Readers will delight in this tale of an urbanite who leaves her magazine job to move to ...

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

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Overview

People magazine calls Marcus of Umbria “charming”; Marley & Me author John Grogan proclaims that Justine van der Leun “is blessed with the elusive gift of storytelling”; Like Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen calls the book “warm, comic, and beautifully descriptive. I devoured this compassionate and sharply funny book in one sitting.”

 

Readers will delight in this tale of an urbanite who leaves her magazine job to move to Collelungo,

Italy, population: 200. There, in the ancient city center of a historic Umbrian village, she sets up house

with the enticing local gardener she met on vacation only weeks earlier. This impulsive decision launches an eye-opening series of misadventures when village life and romance turn out to be radically different from what she had imagined.

Love lost with the gardener is found instead with Marcus, an abandoned English pointer that she

rescues. With Marcus by her side, Justine discovers the bliss and hardship of living in the countryside:

herding sheep, tending to wild horses, picking olives with her adopted Italian family, and trying her best to learn the regional dialect. The result is a rich, comic, and unconventional portrait about learning to live and love in the most unexpected ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A sweet, disarming story finds a young New York editor venturing to Italy to pursue romance with a sexy gardener and ending up falling for a neglected dog instead. In her straightforward, unembellished prose, Van der Leun recounts how she shucked her job editing the Letters page for an unidentified “lifestyle” magazine because she wasn’t good at getting along with the other grasping workers, broke up with “a perfect modern man” who was also Mr. Boring, and spent a summer month at an acquaintance’s house in Collelungo, a sheep-farming village of 200 souls in Umbria. There she met one of the town’s sons, the handsome, earnest gardener Emanuele, whose entire hard-working, ample-eating, non-English-speaking family she grew to know and love over the year she returned to live in the town. But she was appalled by the younger brother’s treatment of his animals, specifically the dogs he used for hunting, and nursed to health a sadly starving young English pointer she named Marcus. Over the year, the relationship with Emanuele did not blossom; but Van der Leun became crazy about her sleek, dark-headed fast-running bird dog—a female, it turned out, who needed quickly to be spayed. The author manages to capture the lovely, vanishing Old World ways of these tightly knit people, while also interweaving a heart-melting tale. (June)
Publishers Weekly
A sweet, disarming story finds a young New York editor venturing to Italy to pursue romance with a sexy gardener and ending up falling for a neglected dog instead. In her straightforward, unembellished prose, Van der Leun recounts how she shucked her job editing the Letters page for an unidentified "lifestyle" magazine because she wasn't good at getting along with the other grasping workers, broke up with "a perfect modern man" who was also Mr. Boring, and spent a summer month at an acquaintance's house in Collelungo, a sheep-farming village of 200 souls in Umbria. There she met one of the town's sons, the handsome, earnest gardener Emanuele, whose entire hard-working, ample-eating, non-English-speaking family she grew to know and love over the year she returned to live in the town. But she was appalled by the younger brother's treatment of his animals, specifically the dogs he used for hunting, and nursed to health a sadly starving young English pointer she named Marcus. Over the year, the relationship with Emanuele did not blossom; but Van der Leun became crazy about her sleek, dark-headed fast-running bird dog—a female, it turned out, who needed quickly to be spayed. The author manages to capture the lovely, vanishing Old World ways of these tightly knit people, while also interweaving a heart-melting tale. (June)
Library Journal
After a month's stay in Collenlungo, Italy, the 25-year-old author writes of returning briefly to her life in New York City only to book a one-way ticket back. By continuing her budding relationship with the handsome musician/gardener Emanuele, she hopes to find a more fulfilling life. Shortly thereafter, both her affair and the focus of her affection alter unexpectedly when she rescues a female pointer (dubbed Marcus) from near starvation at the farm where Emanuele's family lived. In this region, animals in general are considered either food or the means for attaining it, and over time Van der Leun becomes appalled at their inhumane treatment. Ultimately, as her affair is dwindling, she also begins preparing for her return to the United States and realizes she cannot condemn her beloved Marcus to this distressing fate. VERDICT Readers should think of this comical but sardonic chronicle as more of a combination of Eat, Pray, Love with a dash of A Year in Provence than a pet memoir, as the story itself is far more about the journey than the animal. [See also "Short Takes: Pet Memoirs," LJ 2/1/10, p. 88.—Ed.]—Judy Brink-Drescher, Molloy Coll. Lib., Rockville Centre, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605299600
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/8/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

JUSTINE VAN DER LEUN has written for various publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, the New York Observer, Marie Claire, and The Bark. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2010

    A wonderful read!

    Who doesn't love a book about romance, dogs and Italy? "Marcus of Umbria" is refreshing, highly readable and a joy from start to finish. Take a vicarious trip to Italy with Justine van der Leun. Looking forward to future books from this author, hopefully including more about Marcus.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A CANDID REMEMBRANCE ENRICHED WITH LIFE LESSONS AND LAUGHTER

    Had a bad day at the office? Justine van der Leun had more than a few plus seven years of living in New York City, and she wanted a change. When an acquaintance invited her to spend a month in his village, Collelungo, Italy, she couldn't pack fast enough. Thus began a life changing adventure for her and a warm, hilarious, head-on honest memoir for us.

    MARCUS OF UMBRIA will enchant from the first page. After meeting a handsome musician/gardener, Emanuele, during her first visit to Italy Justine decides to move there permanently in hopes of finding "a great love.....a new place and a new way to live." Now, Collelungo (population 200) was a new place for her but in actuality an ancient city in the heart of Umbria. The people were farmers, quite set in the ways of their predecessors and happy to follow them.

    Emanuele's family, the Crucianis, took her in - albeit they found her odd. For her part, Justine attempted to adapt,, helping where she could, gamely following their habits, and attempting to learn the language. But she found that much of the fabric of life for the Collelungoese had been woven centuries ago and she could not change a stitch "This was a culture of women who took care of men from birth to death, and of men who feigned incapability until they actually became incapable." (ie Justine once saw an aged woman carefully making her way across the piazza carrying a stack of starched and ironed shirts - after all, "she had been ironing her son's shirts for seventy-five years.")

    Justine found herself "unable or unwilling to do what society dictates an Umbrian woman should do - including incessantly cleaning up after a man, killing chickens with my bare hands, and cooking lasagna and wild boar." However, in addition to finding that she and Emanuele were not meant for each other Justine did find the love of her life to date in a small pen attached to the horse barn - a badly neglected puppy whose ribs she could easily count. She immediately made him her own and named him Marcus. As it turned out he was a she and a purebred English pointer. Caring for Marcus in a place where dogs were treated as livestock and often died by the age of three. Nonetheless, she persisted much to the consternation of the Cruciani family.

    Speaking of that family, the author has created unforgettably vivid verbal photographs. It is as if her words were a camera clearly imaging mother Serenella (who worked 14 hours a day and then came home to prepare a feast in 20 minutes); father Fabio with his ever present cigar who is usually found in a seated position, Emanuele's siblings and diverse relatives. Hopefully some day MARCUS OF UMBRIA will become a film as these people are too wonderful not to be brought to mind again on a wide screen.

    Justine van der Leun has given us a memoir to savor, a sampling of the Old World vis-a-vis the new, a candid remembrance enriched with life lessons, laughter, and the ever changing faces of love.

    Gail Cooke

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2014

    The first part of the book is very funny , and her descriptions

    The first part of the book is very funny , and her descriptions of life in a small, Italian town are interesting. I really liked reading about the family she knew best, but somewhere in there she lost my interest.  


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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 July 21, 2010

    Ugg....disappointing

    From the reviews maybe I expected too much. Some of the slow parts, I just skimmed with a yawn. I have to say, the author and her dog are beautiful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2010

    Awesome read for anyone interested in adventure, travel, animals, love...basically, anyone...

    I bought this the other day and read it in two sittings...I was swept up in Van Der Leun's story and narrative immediately, and draw in deeper and deeper by her honesty, fresh voice, and vibrant portrayal of life in a bucolic Italian village.

    Her relationship with Marcus is one of the most original and moving i have come across in ages- a real inspiration and evidence yet again that we never really know what life holds in store for us.

    An all round great round. by two copies- one for you, and one for someone you love.

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