And mostly, I was not disappointed. Though this travel memoir was light on the adventure, it was filled with excellent writing and poignant moments involving communication between people who lack a common language. In the book, Anthony Doerr and his wife move to Rome after he is awarded the Rome prize, which entitles the winner to a year spent writing at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in Rome. The couple bring their infant twins, Owen and Henry, along with all the parenting paraphernalia that accompanies small children. Much of the book is filled with Doerr's wonder at the things his sons will do: try to eat electrical plugs, stay up all night crying, and reduce old Italian men to cooing, teary-eyed friends.
This sentence alone demonstrates Anthony Doerr's way of turning mundane sights into beautiful words. Mud, dust, and rain may not sound appealing, but in his hands even the worst weather in Italy seems poetic. Though it isn't as fast-paced as other travel books, Four Seasons in Rome is filled with great writing and an honest portrait of a fascinating city.It's the puzzle of Rome that mesmerizes: its patience, its stratigraphy, Tiber mud gumming up the past, wind carrying dust from Africa, rain pulling down ruins, and the accumulated weight of centuries compacting everything tighter, transubstantiating all stones into one (84).
Four Seasons in Rome © Anthony Doerr and Scribner, 2007.