Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran

It's a story that's been told before: make a move to a foreign county, buy a house, wrangle with government red tape and workmen to make the house livable, meet quirky characters, write a book about the experience.

Under the Tuscan Sun...A Year in Provence...French Dirt...Castles in the Air...and now The Reluctant Tuscan (2005) by Phil Doran.

I will tell you up front that I love this sort of tale and Mr. Doran does a splendid job of telling his.  

A burnt-out, unemployed, fifty-something television sitcom writer finds himself in Cambione, Tuscany as the owner of a 300-year-old stone house that his wife bought on a whim on one of her long stays in Italy studying sculpting. 

He's not too happy. She is ecstatic that they have a common goal of working together on the house and making a new, more relaxed, life  for themselves. His heart(burn) is still in Hollywood even though his life there was stressed to the max.

But, reluctantly, he falls in love with the Italian countryside, the food, the people, the culture, and his wife...again. 

Mr. Doran has such an easygoing style and his stories are laugh-out-loud hilarious. In addition to resisting everything Italian - except the food and the espresso - Mr. Doran is having a life-crisis: without his work, who is he?

The story ends happily and the reader is treated along the way to many celebratory meals; an olive harvest; grey spiders; a baby goat; Italian drivers; molto vino; the aunts Nina, Nona, and Nana; and, festivals as only the Italians can put on. 

One such festival was the celebration of Festa della Liberazione honoring the liberation of the town by the Americans in World War II. The guest of honor was one Robert Hilliard who was one of the first soldiers to enter Cambione. He was from my home town.

Another bit of synchronicity was reading about the Dorans hanging a black-and-white family portrait of the cast of The Sopranos, the television show about American gangsters, on the living room wall. He told the contractor that those rough looking fellows were some of his wife's family in America. The purpose of this white lie was to intimidate the contractor, who had sent a bill for way more than the agreed upon charges, to lower his fees. I was reading these pages the day after it was reported that James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano, had died of a heart attack.

If you have an affinity for Italy and real-life stories such as this, I recommend The Reluctant Tuscan.  Molto buono.


  1. Sounds wonderful. I love escaping to another country via a good book.

    1. Me too! Travel without the trouble. This is a great one, Lark.

  2. What is there about Tuscany that makes reading about it such a treat. I know I'll never travel there so I've enjoyed the books you mentioned and always have my eyes open for more.

    Joyce in KS

    1. I think, Joyce, it is because the culture is so different and so old! And then there is the food...and the scenery...Yes, Tuscany is popular for many reasons and seeing it through the eyes of a humorous writer is such a treat. Mr. Doran's take on Tuscany is simply hilarious.