Ben Downing’s new book, Queen Bee of Tuscany, is now on sale!

The Parnassus offices have been a hive of activity of late. Yesterday we announced the arrival of Volume 33 (subscribe here!), and today we have the pleasure of announcing that Farrar, Straus, and Giroux has published Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross, by our co-editor Ben Downing.

Queen Bee of Tuscany brings the extraordinary Victorian Janet Ross back to life. Born into a distinguished intellectual family and raised among luminaries such as Dickens and Thackeray, she married at eighteen and went to live in Egypt. There, for the next six years, she wrote for the London Times, hobnobbed with the developer of the Suez Canal, and humiliated pashas in horse races. In 1867 she moved to Florence, Italy where she spent the remaining sixty years of her life writing a series of books and hosting a colorful miscellany of friends and neighbors, from Mark Twain to Bernard Berenson, at Poggio Gherardo, her house in the hills above the city. Eventually she became the acknowledged doyenne of the Anglo-Florentine colony, as it was known. Yet she was also immersed in the rural life of Tuscany: An avid agriculturalist, she closely supervised the farms on her estate and the sharecroppers who worked them, often pitching in on grape and olive harvests.

Spirited, erudite, and supremely well-connected, Ross was one of the most dynamic women of her day. Her life offers a fascinating window on fascinating times, from the Risorgimento to the rise of fascism. Encompassing all this rich history, Queen Bee of Tuscany is a panoramic portrait of an age, a family, and our evolving love affair with Tuscany.

The rest of us at Parnassus offer our sincerest congratulations to Ben on this occasion and all wishes for the success of his book. And while it’s always best to support the local bookshop, Queen Bee of Tuscany can be picked up here and here online.


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Publisher & Editor: Herbert LEIBOWITZ
Co-Editor: Ben DOWNING
Associate Editors:
Assistant Editors:
Design and Art Direction: Alyssa VARNER
Printer: Cadmus Press

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