By Karin J. MartinezSeptember 13, 2018
VICENZA, Italy - Library book club members here got a special treat when they gathered Sept. 6 for their monthly meeting on Caserma Ederle.
The group had the opportunity to discuss their latest read, "The Best Mud in Italy," with its author, Myra Robinson.
Robinson, a self-proclaimed "Yorkshire lass" from northern England has, since 2009, split her time between her homeland and Italy, where she has fallen in love with the small town of Battaglia Terme in Padova.
September's book club choice came about when Caralyn Champa, public services librarian for U.S. Army Garrison Italy, found the book after reading Robinson's article about Catajo Castle in Italy Magazine.
"My mom and I started reading ('The Best Mud in Italy') on my Kindle," said Champa. "When it was time for her to go back home to Minnesota, she asked if she could take my Kindle so she could finish reading the book."
The librarian was not willing to let her reading device go back to the States, however, so she offered to contact the author to obtain a copy of the book so her mother could finish. After a pleasant exchange, Robinson sent an autographed copy of the book to Champa's mother at her home in Minnesota, and a friendship between the librarian and the writer was born.
The book is comprised of vignettes about experiences that unfolded as Robinson learned about Italian culture and ways of the Italian people.
Champa added that "Mud" includes "funny anecdotes, charming characters and lots of great tips for travel and exploration in the Veneto region." She thought the book could help Vicenza Library patrons learn more about the region; thus, the book became a club selection.
With such chapter titles as Hot Water and a Dozen Ways to Cook a Rabbit, Trattoria Tips, and The Grand Dame of Tuscany, "Mud" is an eclectic read that easily worms its way into the hearts of readers - especially those from countries other than Italy who have the experience of day-to-day living here.
Although she studied French and spent much time in France, the writer said she ended up Italy because she was looking for a change.
"I wanted to do something different," Robinson said. "So I decided to come to Italy. And I wanted to be in an area off the tourist track."
The small town in the volcanic Euganean Hills offered exactly what she was looking for. With an obsession for visiting spa towns, she ended up in Battaglia Terme, initially, because it was known for having "the best mud in Italy."
Battaglia lies at the eastermost edge of the Hills and has been noted for saline springs and natural vapor grotto since the Middle Ages. (Robinson's experience with getting a doctor's prescription for a body treatment that included six buckets of hot mud is a chapter that readers won't want to miss.) The town became her home away from home, and its people and her experiences living and traveling gave her plenty of material for what became a body of work that she describes as a "labor of love."
The writer's visit to Caserma Ederle was a successful one, as 18 club members (including two newly arrived spouses) were there to greet her.
"It was great fun," said Champa. "Myra has a charming British accent and sense of humor, and she was tickled by how closely we paid attention to her stories."
Book club members shared their thoughts about the book and asked Robinson questions about people and locations described in the various stories. No detail was left unexamined by the end of the evening.
Other writers who have participated in library events here are Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), who visited the book club and conducted a writer's workshop in 2009; and a Skype interview with Bernie Krause (The Great Animal Orchestra) in 2015.
Robinson's book is available online and at the post library.