Sunday, April 11, 2010
Living in a Foreign Language - Michael Tucker
"You may have the universe, if I may have Italy," says Giuseppe Verdi, the 19th century Italian composer. I have never been to Italy but I have loved everything about it ever since childhood (enough to try and learn the language) and now, having read among a number of things, this particular book, I can only assume Signor Verdi to be correct.
Micheal and Jill Tucker, a middle-aged actor couple from California sell their home and on a whim, move to Italy. In the hill town of Spoleto, Umbria, there is an old stone house called Rustico. It has a small hill of olive trees hugging it, orchards, woods and mountains. And it has their name on it. The Tuckers buy the place, pack up their Californian life and become, for all intents and purposes, Italians.
Much like Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, this book chronicles one year in the life of the Tuckers and it is engaging to read about their experiences with the weird, wonderful, addictive thing that is rural Italy. Along with them you learn to bake pizzas in a three hundred year old oven, love grappa, slow roast a piglet, fall into the habit of afternoon siestas, break your head over the renovation of the Rustico, make friends with the villagers and a jolly group of ex-patriots and generally endeavour to the good life the Italian way.
Perhaps in matter or form, Living in a Foreign Language does not differ all that much from the other memoirs and travelogues that are out there but Michael Tucker's style of narration makes all the difference. The man simply exudes vigour and zest for good friends, good food and all things Italian. Presiding over every line of his book, the one constant thing that is present from the dedication page to the last is his love for his wife Jill and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Not fictional, not dramatic but something very real existing about two very ordinary people. Many people have moved to Italy or France or some other equally fantastic part of Europe and have written about their experiences, but for me, there is something about Michael Tucker's book that draws me in and makes me read it over and over again. Mine is a well-thumbed copy. This man is so non-condescending, excited and thankful for his experiences and all of it has translated so well on to the pages. I sincerely believe that more than Peter Mayle's more famous book, this one has that spark, that X factor that makes travelogues and memoirs so enjoyable.
Do read the book, you will make two wonderful friends, Michael and Jill and take away a piece of that beautiful country with you.