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The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian Paperback – March 23, 2006


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The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian + Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy + A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (March 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592401899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592401895
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers of Doran's amusing memoir about relocating from Los Angeles to the tiny Tuscan town of Cambione must first suspend their disbelief that a person in his right mind would actively resist such an opportunity. But resist Doran does—and when his sculptor wife buys a ramshackle, 300-year-old house there on a whim, she must drag him kicking and screaming out of his high-stress, low-reward life as a Hollywood writer and producer (among his hits: Who's the Boss? and The Wonder Years). What follows is rather predictable: the house turns out to be in even worse shape than anyone imagined, and the construction crew has no "discernable pattern" when it comes to showing up for work. Lines like "Things happen in Italy that don't happen anywhere else on earth. A magical friendliness is spread all over the place like pixie dust" don't do much to distinguish Doran's story from other books of its ilk, but the author's grudging optimism and dead-on ear for dialogue certainly do. Doran's brutally funny accounts of tangles with everyone (including the mayor, the police, an inefficient landlord and Doran's long-suffering wife) are enough to keep readers hooked until the last page. It may not be a surprise that he lives happily ever after, but how he gets there is certainly worth the ride.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In funny, breezy, offhand prose, yet one more American discovers the pleasures and pains of restoring a superannuated, bucolic Tuscan dwelling. A writer-producer of television series, Doran moves from Los Angeles to Tuscany at the behest of his interior-decorator wife and begins to live out his own Italian-inflected version of Green Acres. Having been suborned into purchase of Tuscan real estate that no right-thinking Italian would dream of buying, Doran gradually succumbs to the Tuscan lifestyle of constant wondrous meals punctuated with siestas. The taste of a grape and a plate of local pasta weave increasingly tight bonds about him. Despite civic opposition to his wife's road-building efforts and the locals' endearingly duplicitous dealings with them, Doran finds himself drawn to all the sensuous pleasures Tuscany offers. Doran has an eye for the telling personal detail, and he knows how to set up a scene for maximum comic impact. This well-crafted book could easily pass for a television series treatment. All that is missing is a laugh track. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is a fun read.
Carol W. Cummings
The author has some wonderful insights into his own ego and how being in Italy he was able to see past the accepted perceptions of what a "successful life looks like."
abundant
The Reluctant Tuscan has the feel of Peter Mayle's travel diaries but with more story than diary.
Kristy Howard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By L.A. in CA on August 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book works on several levels. First of all, it is a very amusing account of adjusting to life in a small Tuscan town. The author struggles with the language, the maddening Italian bureaucracy and the often perplexing social customs. His wife, having visited the area many times, was more familiar with the culture. For example, when bureaucratic red tape slowed progress on home repairs or on the completion of paperwork, she used two things that never failed to bring results: tears and mention of mother. She "faked" crying on several occasions to get her way. I can't say I blame her, although it did get kind of old after a while.

Nothing seemed to get done without food being involved either. Lots of food.

Another reason this book works is as a travel book. You will learn things here about Italy that you will never find in a Rick Steves' tourbook.

And finally, this book works because it is wickedly funny. An enjoyable read.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kristy Howard on April 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Phil Doran's dry humor is evident in this light-hearted romp under the Tuscan sun. The story sounds predictable with an American writer escaping to Italy impulsively buying a fixer-upper in the country. Sounds familiar? Sounds like the plot for Under the Tuscan Sun, only this version is from a man who has the knack for comedy. Doran is the writer and producer of the tv hit Wonder Years. The Reluctant Tuscan has the feel of Peter Mayle's travel diaries but with more story than diary. Would be great for a light summer read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K Dunn on June 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Screenwriter Phil Duran's first book The Reluctant Tuscan is a laugh-out loud tale of a mid-life crisis unfolding in the Italian countryside.

His style is a sort of Erma Bombeck meets Woody Allen although there is an underlying love story between a husband and wife struggling to survive the pressures of a Hollywood marriage. We (you) feel as though we are eavesdropping on Phil's thoughts as he relates with total candor the absurdities of living as a cultural misfit in a country he both loves and hates. But there is a sweet side to Phil underneath the cynicism that gives this book an authenticity devoid of contrivance.

Quite simply this is one very funny book and a rare gift for the summer reader.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Reluctant" and "Tuscan" are two words that might seem contradictory. After all, who wouldn't seize the chance to live in the celebrated Italian region famous for its vineyards, lush scenery, and charming villages? Well, Phil Doran, for one.

Doran's reluctant Tuscan odyssey begins with a phone call from his wife, Nancy, an artist who travels frequently to Italy. "I bought a house," she tells him as he sits in his office in their home in Los Angeles. A television scriptwriter, Doran has no intention of leaving Hollywood behind for life in the rural Italian village of Cambione. But he's no match for Nancy, who is determined to save her husband from his high-stress, workaholic lifestyle. In his fifties, he's viewed by the entertainment industry as "a relic from another age," yet he can't seem to let go of the job that has defined him for twenty-five years.

Doran heads to Tuscany where he finds more drama than anything he could have conjured up for the screen. The 300-year-old farmhouse he now owns is ramshackle at best, a true fixer-upper that needs extensive structural work and has neither an address nor a road leading to it. The previous owners have decided they want to reclaim the house, and they try all manner of ways to get the Dorans to sell it back, including fixing them with the "evil eye." And the whole town, it seems, knows about their plight and has an opinion to offer. Finally, after navigating endless layers of bureaucratic red tape, renovations on the house finally begin --- bringing with it a whole new set of challenges.

Part memoir and part travel narrative, THE RELUCTANT TUSCAN is about a quest to restore a house. But it's also about Doran's journey to restore his life and reconnect in his marriage.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Book shelves bulge with stories by those who have sought health and happiness in a foreign country. However, "The Reluctant Tuscan" is a memoir of another stripe. Peter Mayle wrote of his frustrations in restoring a hotel in Provence with whimsy and affection. After reading the iconic "Under the Tuscan Sun," we dreamed of booking a flight on Alitalia. Few will want to join sitcom writer Phil Doran in his 300-year-old Italian farmhouse, as this is a man who not only went kicking and screaming to the hills of Tuscany but did a fair share of kvetching once he arrived.

While still in California the once in demand Doran found himself viewed as a bit of a dinosaur as the younger writers were leaving him in the dust. He'd been married for a quarter of a century to Nancy, a sculptor, who frequently visited Italy for work and study. Perhaps her extended visits were for the best as their relationship was a bit rocky.

Nancy had some thoughts about this and decided the remedy was for Phil to move to Italy. To that end she purchased an old farmhouse badly in need of repair - reconstruction might be more accurate. She is, in his description, somewhat of a "nest builder," someone who wants to make things beautiful. "When she sees a house she wants to redo," he writes, "she gets a look on her face like a fifteen-year-old boy on a topless beach."

From the first, when he swelters in a closed plane on the runway because the ground crew can't open the doors, we know Phil won't find much to love in Italy. In his eyes, the house is worse than he could have imagined. It was such a heap that it didn't even have an address. It's one asset was its location - atop a hill.
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