“In those years at the castle just after the First World War, John and I led a life unusually free of supervision for those days. My eldest brother Gordon was away at school in England, and our parents left us to our own devices. Their views on child-rearing were a curious mixture of the reactionary and the progressive. They subscribed to the Edwardian belief that children, like racehorses, were the product of their blood-lines. Good breeding spoke for itself. Any unsatisfactory offspring from sound stock could therefore be explained only as a throw-back. This conveniently deterministic theory allowed them to ignore the rearing of their own children and also to disclaim responsibility for the results.”
So writes Kinta Beevor in A Tuscan Childhood, her lyrical memoir of life in a Italian castle in the years between the two world wars. The beauty and enchantment of the Tuscan countryside is captured in this story of her idyllic bohemian childhood after her painter father bought a 16th century fortified villa in Italy and moved his family there from England. Kinta’s family lived at the heart of a vibrant artistic community that included Aldous Huxley, Bernard Berenson, and D. H. Lawrence, and other lesser-known British expatriates. While the adults engaged in painting or writing or whatever pursuits took their fancy, Kinta and her brother explored the countryside, helped with the grape and olive harvests, gathered wild mushrooms, and came to know and love the tough, resourceful Italians.
“During the long days spent out of doors, the sun turned our skin brown and our fair hair pale gold. Our feet were as tough as those of the peasant boys. Running through the dry grass and wild thyme, our bare feet striking the ground unseen, felt like leaping through the shallows at the seaside. The crickets fell silent at our approach, and then exploded out of the desiccated undergrowth around us like flying shrimps.”
The family was forced to leave Italy at the start of World War II, and only years later was Kinta able to return to her childhood home to witness the courage and skill of the Italians as they rebuilt their shattered world. Witty and charming, A Tuscan Childhood is alight with the timeless splendor of Italy - be sure to read all about it.
Copyright © 2003, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.