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The Reluctant Tuscan Hardcover – April 7, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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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.

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (April 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240118X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592401185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
"The Reluctant Tuscan" left me - whelmed. The book recounts the period of time when the writer moved to a rural town in Tuscany and undertakes renovating a dilapidated farm house, mostly to appease his wife, who has bought the property without consulting him. Hilarity ensues.

At least, that's what Mr. Doran wants to you think. There were some amusing bits but none that made me laugh out loud. Stereotypes and caricatures of Italians abound and there are multiple references to the Germans and WWII. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I found these annoying. He does sometimes manage to write in a natural voice that is amusing and inviting and those passages are very nice. Unfortunately they were few and far betweeen. He also has a bad habit of throwing in little asides and quips that obviously call for a laugh-track. I found these drew me out of the narrative and only served to reinforce the idea that Mr. Doran is highly invested in his identity as a sitcom writer.

Late in the book, Mr. Doran makes the comment that in Hollywood, one is constantly auditioning. And I realized that's what he was doing throughout the book - auditioning. Auditioning for the reader's approval, for the reader's laughter, anxiously hoping for a reaction of some kind. Which is a shame as I think he may be a good writer, but he seems to not be able to trust his own writing to speak to the reader. Maybe living in Tuscany will help with that.
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