A year in Rome, with twins, insomnia, and the death of the Pope
A forthcoming trip to Rome led me to pick up Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. The subtitle: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World gives the reader a good idea of what to expect from this book which mostly takes place in 2005.
Doerr's wife, Shauna, has just given birth to twins in Boise Idaho when he finds that he has been awarded a year as a fellow for the American Academy of Arts and Letters which includes a stipend and a studio in Rome. He wasn't even aware that he had been nominated for this prestigious prize but accepted it and soon his small family moved to Rome.
One of the many joys of the book is reading Doerr's honest descriptions of the twins and their year of growth and discovery and the rewards and strains of new parenthood (the insomnia mentioned in the subtitle is directly related to the children.) The twins, strapped into their stroller, are also great ice breakers for interactions with Romans.
The city and its history unfold with Doerr's experiences of the four seasons, for both the current city and its 2000 years of history. Doerr slowly abandoned his book writing plans, started a short story and spent a great deal of time reading Pliny the Elder's Natural History, which he uses very effectively to bridge the present with Rome's past.
The illness and death of Pope John Paul are huge events in Rome and the city is literally packed with people. Doerr and the boys are in St. Peter's Square for the announcement of the new pope.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and recommend it for a lot of reasons, only one of which is the portrayal of Rome and the description of living there with a young family. It is a book to savor and enjoy.