Friday, 3 August 2012

Todo In Tuscany - The Dog At The Villa - Book Review

You might think that this is the story of Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw and their move to Italy. It might seem that it was their decision to look for a house in Tuscany – into which they could move themselves and begin a new chapter in their lives – which took them to Poggiolino, in the foothills of Lucca. But in truth, it is the story of a small, chestnut-haired dog, known as Todo.

Todo was the reason that they put in an offer for the run-down, tired house. Todo was the little character known across the neighbourhood who introduced Louise and Lawrence to their new world - albeit a little sooner than they were expecting, as their plans to move were hardly formulated. Todo it was who proved that such things as loyalty, courage and determination are not reserved simply for humans.

Poggiolino was built by Carol MacAndrew, the first president of the Music Society of Lucca, and when she died, her dog simply stayed put. The house stood empty for two years, with Todo stubbornly refusing all efforts to re-home him.

When Louise and Lawrence viewed the house, his welcome made it seem to them as though they had arrived home. He lived alone outside the house and his coat was matted and worn, but he seemed to radiate friendliness. So it was that Todo – and Signora Teresa, the equally loyal housekeeper - proved hugely instrumental in the pair's offer for the house being accepted. Both continued after the purchase to help Louise and Lawrence to settle in.

There followed the frustrations of renovating - of re-connecting the telephone and bringing in the Internet, of packing up and leaving London, whilst continuing to run their music agency, and of regular travel back and forth from England.

It wasn't easy; the pressures were huge, but the pleasures grew to be enormous. The locals, from electricians to policemen, and all who knew the previous owner, proved helpful and welcoming - but time and again doors were opened to them because of the small dog, who seemed to smile at everyone.
This is the story of love and devotion and of a precious friendship with an extraordinary dog. Part memoir, part travelogue, part reassurance that moving to another country is possible, this charming and heart-warming story of rescue and good fortune will raise both smiles and tears.

My thoughts:
I don't read a lot of non-fiction but when I do it is usually of the 'we moved abroad and survived' variety! I love books like Driving Over Lemons and when I was younger all the Gerald Durrell books recounting his childhood in Greece and his slightly quirky family. So this book ticked that box for me. I like to hear about people following their dreams and making it work no matter what life throws at them. I've been to Italy, and Tuscany in particular and the book really does make you want to visit. The idea of taking that step back from the fast pace of London really does appeal.

What I love about this book is the detail of friendships that occur between Louise and Lawrence and Carol MacAndrew's old friends. They all take the authors under their wing and this is because they won Todo's heart, starting right from the beginning when Teresa the housekeeper more or less demands that they should have the house as Todo seemed to see something in them. You see how small communities work in this book, they all pull together, they remember each other and help one another. But there are other times where that's not so much the case, when the hunting season starts for instance and no one seems to want to challenge the hunters that disturb the peace for almost 6 months of the year - there is just an Italian shrug of the shoulders, an acceptance of things which causes Louise and Lawrence much frustration!

I loved the way that the new owners of Poggiolino not only inherited a loyal friend in Todo they also got to know the previous owner through their neighbours, through old photos and even through a burglar that Carol previously knew! It's not often that people move house and get to know the deceased previous occupant so well but it seems that Carol was the life and soul of wherever she went and she also saw something special in Todo.

One thing you can sense right from the beginning of the book is that Todo becomes very special to Louise and Lawrence and they want to do their very best by him at all times. They are very aware from the beginning of their occupation at Poggiolino that Todo is an old age pensioner in dog terms and that they will not get to spend as much time with him as they would have dearly loved. I'm not really spoiling things by saying that of course Todo does die and I should warn you to not be reading this book out in public as it WILL make you cry - I cried on my commute in to London! I knew it was coming but I was so taken in by the lengths Todo's owners went to give him a good quality of life - they don't have children and Todo was certainly their 'baby'.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would definitely recommend reading it. Todo In Tuscany can be purchased from all good book shops and Amazon. If you want to find out more then check out the Todo in Tuscany website, facebook page and they're also on Twitter 
Louise Badger and Lawrence Kershaw were both born in the UK, but Louise spent her
childhood in Australia while Lawrence grew up in Liverpool. They met through a shared love
of music and were married in 1987. They have run a music agency for over a decade and
divide their time between London and a small village near Lucca.

I was sent this book to review free of charge - all opinions are my own.

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