115. Blue Book

A Blue Book means something very particular to me.

No, not the Kelley Blue Book that tells you the value of the used car you are planning to buy. Or the Blue Book that listed the socially-prominent American blue bloods. Not even the all-purpose exam book of my college days.


No, a blue book my name for a particular genre of “literature,” that I’ve mostly noticed in Britain. It typically involves middle-aged female characters who’ve suffered some sort of setback in life, most often a husband or long-term boyfriend giving them the heave-ho. To cheer themselves up, often with their pals, they head to some beautiful location to lick their wounds. Invariably, they blossom without the dominating presence of the male of their former life, and when he inevitably sees the error of his ways, shows up and pleads for forgiveness, they want no part of him. While they are now newly independent and strong and don’t need one, there is often a perfect new man in this glorious new location, who appreciates and supports them. I suppose we would dismissively call these books “chick lit” or “beach reads” here. But sometimes, they’re just what the doctor ordered.

Shades of blue of the Amalfi Coast

These books often can be found in airport or train station book stores, or on the buy-two-get-one-free tables in Waterstones in London. Their settings are typically warm, sunny destinations by the sea in places like Italy, France or Spain, and to really drive this home to potential readers in dreary, grey England, their covers are invariably as blue as the azure Mediterranean where the story takes place. Hence, I call them “blue books.”IMG_0269

The other day, I was feeling a little blue myself, facing a summer with no travel. So I ordered up one of these books for my Kindle, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino.


It caught my eye because it involved one of those situations that emerges in the news: a small, dying town in Italy offers up abandoned houses for one euro each to anyone who commits to fixing it up and living there in the hopes of bringing new life to the town. Three sets of characters — two from England and one from Australia — are chosen, and make their way to this village in Puglia, and set about interacting with the locals, contemplating the sorry state of the houses they are now saddled with, and then proceeding quickly to find the perfect architects, carpenters and lots of new friends. Oh, and of course, falling in love.

I have always been tempted by these offers of one-euro houses, and wondered what the reality was for the people who bought them. Did they turn out to be terrible money pits? Was it impossible to find reliable, competent workers in a place where you know no one? How did they deal with visa issues? Once there, were they isolated, or were they able to become part of community life? So I’ve always talked myself out of pursuing it further — just too chicken, really — and I haven’t even seen any such offers for several years now.

However, within a half hour of finishing the book, I saw this post  on my Facebook La Dolce Vita Italian Cultural Night group: “A Covid-free village in Italy is selling homes for $1.” The tiny town of Cinquefrondi in Calabria, the toe of the Italian boot, is looking for people to occupy its abandoned housing stock and bring life to their village that the young people have abandoned.

Cinquefrondi — Wouldn’t this be lovely?

Calabria is known for many things: its grinding poverty and lack of opportunity, the viciousness of its organized crime, its remoteness, its traditional attitudes. It would be crazy to pursue it.

My friend Lisa, however, who believes in such things, would say this is a sign. Should I go for it? Dare I?

Maybe this would be biting off more than we can chew?


5 thoughts on “115. Blue Book

  1. The Bluebook is also the citation manual for lawyers and law students. It’s actually called The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.


  2. In looking into it, I was surprised at how many different “blue books” there are, typically meaning an official and complete directory. I wonder when “blue” came to mean authoritative.


    1. My paternal grandfather,,. He owned a printing company in Chicago… published a blue book of doctors . Doctors had to pay him to be listed in the book!


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