Queen bee of Tuscany : the redoubtable Janet Ross

by Ben Downing

Hardcover, 2013




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.


A portrait of the Victorian-era writer and Anglo-Florentine colony doyenne covers her work for the London "Times," achievements as an avid agriculturalist, and relationships with such contemporaries as Mark Twain and Bernard Berenson.

User reviews

LibraryThing member nemoman
Janet Ross was a remarkable person who dominated the expatriate English colony that developed around Florence during the latter part of the nineteenth century. She was a competent, if not gifted, writer who wrote historical and biographical tracts as well as myriad periodical articles. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty, and as patrona of her villa's farms, she successfully implemented a number of agricultural reforms. She loved Tuscan folksongs which she enthusiastically would perform on guitar. From early childhood she had been surrounded by noted artists, writers and philosophers. As an adult, she coducted a salon of sorts on Sundays at her villa. I wrote the bulk of the Wikipedia article on Ross, and looked forward to this book to fill in some gaps. Unfortunately, although well-written, the book simply delivers nothing new about Ross. The book does offer some pre-history to set Ross' life in context. At some point, however, the cateloguing of names of famous personages who visited or stayed near Florence became tedious. If you strip away the prefatory matter, the amount of material devoted to Ross is a bit slim. The book overlooks some significant events: e.g., the 1895 earthquake that caused major damage to her villa. I had hoped the book would expand on her journeys through southern Italy; but it glossed over them. Likewise the mystery of her son Alick's life and disappearance remains unsolved. If you never have heard of Ross, you might want to begin first with memoirs of her niece and grandniece: [A Tuscan Childhood] and [A Castle In Italy] by [[Kinta Beevor]] and [[Lina Waterfield]].… (more)
LibraryThing member jessicadelellis
I received this book for free through Goodreads FIrst Reads.

This book was very wordy, but not unpleasant. I've never even heard of Janet Ross before I read this book, but now I know a whole lot about her. I skim read parts of the book that I found to be a tad bit boring. For the most part it was a pretty interesting book.… (more)



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