The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti - Book Review

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Book Review of :  The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti


Lily has come to southern France in search of a new perspective, hoping that the sun's soft rays and the fragrant sea breezes will provide a relaxing respite from the demands of her lively daughter and her family's Idaho cattle ranch. Two years after her husband's sudden death, in the house, that's been in his family for generations, she finally finds some stolen weeks to make sense of the past.

To Madame Olivetti 'her cranky old manual typewriter' Lily entrusts all her secrets, pounding out the story of the men she loved, the betrayals she endured, the losses she still regrets. And with the companionship of Yves, the seductive handyman who comes by to make repairs, Lily comes closer to understanding her exhilarating past 'and to discover she has a new story to tell' one of the delights of starting over.

About Annie Vanderbilt

annie-vanderbilt.jpg I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1946. After graduating from high school, I spent a year living in Sweden, which is where the itch to travel began. The itch to write started much earlier, in the fifth grade, when I wrote the Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Pimperidge stories about a Southern couple riding around in a horse-drawn carriage and getting into mischief. My seventh-grade teacher instructed me to give up the Rudolph Pimperidge nonsense and write essays. My creativity as a writer took a hit, from which I didn't recover until I was thirty. Eleven years before that I met my husband, Bill Vanderbilt, when I was at Radcliffe College and he was at Harvard. We were married during my senior year. The day after I received my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, we entered the Peace Corps as agricultural volunteers in Rajasthan, India. After Peace Corps. we lived for two years in San Luis Obispo, CA where I studied woodcarving and we backpacked in the Sierras and climbed in the Pacific Northwest. In 1972, we trekked into the Annapurna Range and up to Everest base camp in Nepal. Throughout the rest of the '70s, until 1983, we rafted rivers and backpacked all over the western United States and made three kayak/backpacking trips in the Brooks Range and North Slope of Alaska. When not in the backcountry, we lived on Vashon Island, Washington. I studied sculpture, worked as a woodcarver, cabinetmaker, and carpenter, and helped Bill run work projects and backcountry wilderness programs for high school students in national parks. I also wrote my first novel, Yesterday's Woman. I was looking for an agent in 1983 when, I fell off a cliff on the Waterpocket Fold in the Escalante area of southeastern Utah -- a watershed in my life. I shattered my talus (anklebone), survived the night alone while Bill went for help, and was rescued twenty-four hours later by a medical helicopter. It took five surgeries and seven years of healing to walk without crutches or a cane. During the years of recovery, from 1983 to 1990, Bill and I ran a cross-country ski touring business in Ketchum, Idaho. I worked behind the counter, made French bread, soups, and Annie's Sinfully Delicious Brownies. For adventure we took up biking. We rode across southern France a few times, then ventured into Italy and the Dolomite Mountains. In 1990-91 we sold the ski business and spent a year biking from the south to the north of Japan, up the Norwegian coast to Nordkap and south to the Rock of Gibraltar, and from the north to the south of New Zealand. It was a tip-to-tip trip, 12,500 miles. When we returned to Idaho
in 1991, I wrote a book about our four months riding through Japan, intertwined with the story of my fall from the cliff (both of which will be surfacing in my second novel, presently underway). As soon as I finished Gathering Speed in 1993, I began to write a novel: The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti. During the ten years and then some it took to finish the manuscript.  I caregave my parents, sandwiched in wilderness adventures with Bill in South America and the Himalayas, and became involved in Third World environmental and educational projects with our family foundation. After my mother's death in 2004, our house in Ketchum, Idaho, burned to the ground (and, along with it, the unpublished manuscript of Yesterday's Woman.) We moved to a small place we had bought a few years earlier on an island in Florida. The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti, safe in my computer, traveled with me.
I am presently writing a second novel, spending time both in Florida and in Idaho, continuing my involvement with charitable projects for the family foundation, and taking up saltwater fly fishing to add a little catch and release to the creative ups and downs of a late-blooming writer.


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