Skip to main content

Book to Film: My House in Umbria by William Trevor

British romance novelist Emily Delahunty had traveled to Rome by train when the carriage she sat on, along with others, got blown up by a bomb explosion. Presently, she lives in a quaint villa in the hills of Umbria which has now became a haven for the remnant survivors; an old Englishman, a young German lad, and an American girl.

In the surface, it seems like an idyllic scene as Mrs. Delahunty spends her time in nostalgia, drinking grappa, taking walks along the Italian countryside and sitting in her private rooms with a shelf displaying her array of novels but beneath this delightful image runs a dark past and dim musings. As is the facade of a quiet pensione villa for tourists that now houses a handful of people, walking figures of grief and pain and survival.

William Trevor's prose is akin to a lovely drowsy summer afternoon, light and beautiful and yet wrought with subtle tones of crumbling sadness. His characters are quite complex, a bit wanting, a bit damaged; and yet they have their strengths and kindness. Each of their natures appear suspicious but you end up sympathizing with their plights and instabilities when you look further, when you look closer.

In more ways than one, the book showed us how illusion and mystery and pretense convalesce into our lives triggering us to live a little more, perhaps for some, to survive and stay sane, "...dismiss that trinity of wonders and what's left, after all?" as Mrs. Delahunty points out once. She herself lived in her own fantasy, a fictional world of gardens and romance. But then, a time comes when even she must drift to wakefulness.

My House in Umbria is one of a two novellas in the book, Two Lives, about two different women whose lives were greatly altered by tragedy. It was made into a television film, produced by HBO, starring Dame Maggie Smith as Mrs. Delahunty. Now gone went the subtlety and instead the graceful prose of Trevor was evoked on the fine scenery and interiors. You'd be careful to mistake it for a nice travel film filled of nice places and nice people though.

The film boasts of actors with gravity in their performances and a beautifully made set and design. It almost mirrors the lovely premise of the book as Mrs. Delahunty steps out in a dramatic flair of clothing and presence. Everything about her, her looks and her charming villa, seems an embellished image, like straight out of her novels, which connotes how she blurs reality and imagination in her gestures.

It was less about the dark musings of her past and more into her dreams and heightened fancies but such is Maggie Smith's greatness as an actress that you can still see through her, through the walls of her niceties a somewhat wounded trembling creature who cannot escape her shattering past.

Quinty, an erratic and somewhat distrustful fellow, couldn't have been played better by Timothy Spall who most often shines on acting oddball characters while the charms of Benno Furmann playing the German young man hitch our little hearts before it got torn to little pieces later on by the allusions to his presumed actions.

The metaphor of the making an English garden under the Umbrian heat by the old man and the German boy is the thin thread that binds these survivors and a way of healing in the course of time. It may be noted that the film is more hopeful as a piece than the book. It dulls the bittersweet mood of the latter, in that there is something more to yearn for in life rather than just accepting that life merely goes on.

Book Summary:

Mrs. Emily Delahunty, a mysterious and not entirely trustworthy former madam, quietly runs a pensione in the Italian countryside and writes romance novels while she muses on her checkered past. Then one day her world is changed forever as the train she is riding in is blown up by terrorists. Taken to a local hospital to recuperate, she befriends the other survivors -- an elderly English general, an American child, and a German boy -- and takes them all to convalesce at her villa, with unforeseen results.

Title: My House in Umbria
Author: William Trevor
Genre: Travel, Novella
Published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ ( 5 cups - A subtle picturesque piece about inner struggles and grief, Trevor creates a nice meld between the idyllic and harrowing. The written words alone make this book beautiful even with its imperfect characters.)

Film Title: My House in Umbria
Director: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Benno Furmann,Timothy Spall, Chris Cooper
Release Date: 2003
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ ( 4 cups - Stunning and pretty on every nook and corner, it has the feel of a classic. The scenery complements the refined actors albeit the plausibility of the way the mystery was solved in the plot line is quite laying it on too thick.)

{photos. sweetsundaymornings}


  1. Brilliant description of one of William Trevor's great works. Although I haven't seen the film, I've read the book and found it fascinating and full of detail. Mrs. Delahunty is a typical William Trevor creation. I've read nearly all Trevor's novels and short stories and I think I'll never tire of rereading them. He is certainly one of literature's greats! Thanks for giving me the chance to comment.


Post a Comment

Have Your Say!

Popular posts from this blog

Release Day: Bohemian by Kathryn Nolan

RATING/REVIEW: ☕☕☕☕ (4 cups of soothing, slow burn romance!)
Bohemian is a modern day love story about two very different people whose common love for the written word brings them together and in the end may drive them apart.  Lucia and Calvin never would have met in the same place except for the presence of The Mad Ones, an old fashioned bookstore found in the beautiful area of Big Sur.  Lucia is a supermodel, at the age of 26 what use to thrill her has been leaving her bored almost.  When a scheduled shoot in an old fashioned bookstore suddenly fans the flames of her love of reading she starts yearning for more.  Calvin inherited The Mad Ones from his beloved grandfather.  His grandfather's love of reading and his lifestyle has always brought joy to a young Calvin but he never really subscribed to that way of life.  When he meets Lucia he might have been starstruck for a bit.  What does a geeky nerd like him have in common with a beautiful woman like her.  When he finds out they …

Blog Tour: Ride With Me by Ashley Hastings: Review plus Giveaway!

RIDE WITH ME by Ashley HastingsPublication Date: April 5, 2018 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating/Review: ☕☕☕ 1/2 (3.5 cups of funny and sweet but sexy romance) Ride with Me pairs up a sexy cop and a sweet nerdy but adorable grad student who spend their time getting to know each other through a ridealong.  But first they had the most unique meet cute involving car chases!  Who can beat that?!  Lucy and Grayson may not appear to be compatible but in Ride with Me they definitely hit the right notes together. Sweet, short and funny, Ride with Me is a lighthearted read that would put a smile in any romance readers face.

BUY NOW!Amazon: with #KindleUnlimited) Paperback:

SYNOPSIS:A bad boy cop and a straight-laced student are about to go on the ride of their lives… He’s the law, but she’s the one making the rules. Graduate student Lucy wants order and predictability in her life. She always has a list to consult and a plan to execute. Poli…

Review Post: Fool Me Once by Catherine Bybee

Rating/Review: ☕☕☕☕ 1/2 (4.5 cups, this romantic suspense will give new meaning to The First Wives Club)
You never know what you really would be getting when reading a Catherine Bybee book.  On the outside, each book can definitely hold its own as a great contemporary romance novel.  Read a little bit further, you get well-defined, multilayered characters and a romantic suspense in the making. Pretty soon you will be amazed on the intricate storyline balanced well with the main characters developing romance.  Fool Me Once is definitely a Catherine Bybee book.  The first in her new series, First Wives,  Fool Me Once is also a spinoff from her popular Weekday Bride series.  And yet again, Ms. Bybee delivers in her great characters, well thought out plot and melding her two series together without one overpowering the other.
The story starts out as the head of Alliance and their legal go to person, Lori try to help one of their client who unexpectedly lost her husband.  To get her away …