Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Random House
Debbie Travis on ‘Shuggie Bain,’ Isabel Allende and Her Love of Roald Dahl Books
The renowned Canadian interior decorator says 'Under the Tuscan Sun' inspired her to buy a 100-acre farm in Italy, where she runs a boutique hotel / BY Shinan Govani / November 19th, 2021
Oprah once called her “the master of paint and plaster.” You can add living well to the list. Having just written a book on the subject – Joy: Life Lessons from a Tuscan Villa – Debbie Travis is busy these days on the dolce vita front. And what would life be without reading? The accomplished decorator and all-around Canadian icon filled us in recently from her 100-acre farm in the heart of Italy. Between producing extra virgin olive oil and running a luxury boutique hotel for like-minded women at Villa Reniella, she certainly keeps up on the page.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
I was hooked on Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – one of the most “visual” books I have ever read. And I was with my Scottish daughter-in-law at the time so I read it in a Scottish accent.
What book can’t you wait to dive into?
I am about to tuck into Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of the Sea. A friend, who adored it, hid it in my suitcase for me to enjoy on my travels.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
Books that burrow into my heart are the ones that I love and there are many that go hand in hand with who I was or who I am at the time of reading. For instance, I remember missing my flight from Athens to London when I was in my early 20s as I sat on the packed airport floor throughout the night reading The World According to Garp by John Irving. I cannot say I have a favourite book of all time, but the quartet or series of books by Elena Ferrante are the stories I have shared the most with others in recent years. The seductive Neapolitan novels are a sheer delight.
What book completely changed your perspective?
Without doubt Under the Tuscan Sun. Every page of Frances Mayes’ book inspired me to follow in her footsteps. I read each chapter over and over again. The seed was soon firmly planted. I changed my perspective of the joys of daily life and I too bought a ruin on a hillside in Tuscany.
If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
The author with the most fascinating and titillating imagination is the late Roald Dahl. Dinner with him would be a journey into the childhood of my two sons and the happy bedtime hours we shared as a family, devouring all his tales.