Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Puss in Boot

It's been a busy couple of weeks. The day after my birthday the girls and my sister assembled here and they made a superb Italian banquet. This served as training for Bologna where I wnet two days later.

Rhiannon and I both had a successfully fair, being feasted by Frances Lincoln, our (joint) agents and (joint) German publishers. We also met the Japanese and I the Dutch and Danish publishers of The Falconer's Knot. Philip Pullman was giving a talk but we didn't see him.

The fair was depressingly full of fairies and princesses and pink and glitter. Also examples of the higher tosh order of fantasy. But the weather was spectacular - sunny with clear blue skies the whole time. I met three Italian friends/contacts - four if you count Ed Zaghini but he's lived over here so long I don't know if you can.

One was the woman who is helping set up a European library in Rome. We have been trying to be in touch for a long time and spent an hour and a half drinking coffee in the sunshine while I tried to fill her in on the British scene.

On Thursday evening Stevie came out to join us and we went to Florence by train. Our apartment there was right on the Borgo San Lorenzo, with cafe tables right outside the front door. Literally - we had to wheel our suitcases round them! Then there were 72 steps up to the flat. But it was a little marvel when we'd got there, with one window looking towards San Lorenzo and another towards Brunelleschi's Dome.

We mixed culture, ice-cream and social life for two and a half days, having dinner with my dear friend Carla on the last night. I lost count of the courses but I bet she has been living on leftovers for a week. I half-expected to bump into Adele Geras who was in the city at the smae time but in fact it was Philip and Jude Pullman we met on the train back to Bologna - they had done the same as us and tacked on three days after the end of the fair.

We got back to find, which Stevie had warned me about, one of the cats with her leg in a sort of cast. She had broken four tiny bones in her ankle while I was away and had to have a spectacularly fiddly and expensive operation in Solihull. Jess had done all the driving and paying and set up a holding cage which the poor animal has to spend six weeks in - the equivalent of bedrest for someone with a badly broken leg. She yells to be taken out for cuddles and her sister thinks she's a fake and hisses at her.

I read Sarah Waters' Night Watch, which I did find compelling but don't think that the much-vaunted reverse construction made it a better book. It meant it couldn't have a proper ending. I saw an exhibition of Desiderio da Settignano's sculptures at the Bargello and thought him very inferior to Donatello, or even Giambologna. But I also saw the much-loved favourites by Michelangelo - Brutus, Bacchus and the wonderful little Apollo-David. And the Benozzo Gozzoli Journey of the Magi again in the Medici Palace, of which I never tire. And we got into Orsanmichele, which has been "in restauro' for years - a real treat. The Boboli gardens were much more vertical than I had remembered.

Since being back, for contrast, I have also seen Spiderman 3, which is a good candidate for "worse film ever made."


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