Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Liesl Jobson

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Finding Rome on the Map of Love by Estelle Jobson

It was a snow day in New Canaan, Connecticut, when my youngest sister first left home at age nine. She carried a teddy bear and wore a lightweight jacket as she headed off to Fairty’s Orchard in a justified fit of pique. Another sister was unbearably irksome and as the oldest in the family it fell to me to arbitrate – in the absence of our parents – and to persuade her that this understandable bid for freedom was premature. Trudging after her through the snow laden field, I promised she could leave home the next day. I would help her plan it better. Food, for example, would be good. The following day, it would probably not be snowing…

Estelle left home many times over the years, although she waited until she’d graduated and had launched a career in publishing. She travelled to Holland, Switzerland, New York (sending harrowing accounts of the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11), Iran and Australia. Entirely without any assistance from me, let it be said, she went around the world, exquisitely turned out as the photo record of her travels would attest.

The highlights of her journeys were the written accounts she’d send, initially a pale blue onionskin letter in an airmailed envelope, but later via email. Estelle showed the world she’d seen from a different angle in sparkling missives, replete with flamboyant observations, hilarious conversations overheard, and spicy accounts of encounters with weird locals. Estelle always told her story from a bold and bizarre perspective.

The last time Estelle got itchy feet was in 2008, when she left her home, then Johannesburg, to follow her Italian diplomat partner to Rome. Soon enough the first email arrived. On 28 October Estelle wrote to her family and a handful of friends:

I’ve been exploring our neighbourhood, Monte Mario, which is turning out to be very user-friendly – lots of shops and services within walking distance, and plenty of friendly neighbourhood characters, including busy bodies and an eccentric lady who wears a furry blue hat, many of whom congregate a coffee bar right downstairs at Bar Claudia. The agents who sold us the flat are a very helpful, highly odd and entertaining pair (big, strapping Umberto and small, plump Beppino, both in their seventies) and I can pop in and ask them for any assistance at all, be it to loan a drill or to get the verdict on whether cycling about town would be a good idea. (No, it wouldn’t.)

She promised to write again, a “more beautifully composed email when am not in an internet cafe with a TV broadcasting theatrical episodes of childbirth!”

And then they came, every few weeks, beautifully composed emails detailing the remarkable journey Estelle had undertaken. Every email was another jewel that inevitably made me laugh till tears formed. Soon enough the suggestion was made to put them in a book. In fact, everybody who received Estelle’s emails kept repeating the plea to make them into a collection. This has finally happened and Finding Rome on the Map of Love now exists as an exquisite paperback with an arresting turquoise cover. It has also arrived punctually as an e-book. After just six weeks in the world the paper version is going to its first reprint!

Earlier this year my intrepid sister got tired of waiting for a publisher to wake up to her remarkable MS and so, she stepped out on her own once again. Never shy to undertake a challenge, Estelle applied her 15 years experience in the publishing industry to embark on the journey of self-publishing. With gorgeous book design, layout and cover design by Nicoletta Forni, this entirely lovely book is worth reading. Estelle is now marketing and distributing Finding Rome on the Map of Love via her Facebook page and dispatching gift-wrapped copies from her new place in Geneva. This would make a perfect Christmas gift to any with a yen for travelling to Rome. Make that anybody with a yen for travel because while the focus is Rome, it is as much about being a stranger in a foreign country and the resourcefulness that is required to learn a language, understand the customs and become familiar with the ways of any new place.

Finding Rome on the Map of Love is an utterly enchanting and fabulously funny journey outwardly, into the city of Rome, but inwardly, Estelle bravely squares up her options in love and life. Her sharp eye investigates the real and the imagined and her inimitable voice always rings true.

Enjoy a free chapter extract from ‘The Socialization of the Italian Man’ on “the Italian Intrigues blog” or look inside the Kindle edition on Amazon. Email findingrome [at] to obtain a hard copy.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    November 24th, 2012 @19:53 #

    I loved Signora Stella's missives from Rome. Looking forward to getting my paws on this.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat