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The Other Language [Hardcover]

Francesca Marciano
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

8 April 2014

Hailed by The New York Times as “a natural-born storyteller,” the acclaimed author of Rules of the Wild gives us nine incandescently smart stories, funny, elegant, and poignant by turns, that explore the power of change—in relationships, in geographies, and across cultures—to reveal unexpected aspects of ourselves.
 
Taking us to Venice during film festival season, where a woman buys a Chanel dress she can barely afford; to a sun-drenched Greek village at the height of the summer holidays, where a teenager encounters the shocks of first love; and to a classical dance community in southern India, where a couple gives in to the urge to wander, these remarkable tales bring to life characters stepping outside their boundaries into new passions and destinies. Enlivened by Francesca Marciano’s wit, clear eye, and stunning evocations of people and places, The Other Language is an enthralling tour de force rich with many pleasures.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (8 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307908364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307908360
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every one of these stories was exquisite 14 May 2014
By PT Cruiser TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I'm not usually a fan of short story collections but I absolutely loved these stories by Francesca Marciano. Each one grabbed me in the first page or two and held me captive til the end. It's probably the first time a short story collection has kept me awake at night turning the pages. The stories were all about women in transition, living in different places, in different circumstances and different times of their lives, but each was such a unique story, unlike the others. Her character development was excellent, especially considering the short length of each story. I really wish some of them would have gone on, because I liked the characters so much, yet they all ended with some sort of satisfying resolution. Some make me sad, some made me laugh, and some had me thinking about them afterwards looking up the places were they took place on the Internet. This is a book I will definitely recommend to friends.

Marciano has written three other novels, Casa Rossa, Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa and The End of Manners: A Novel. After reading this short story collection I'm anxious to read her other books.

I received an advance review copy of this book from Amazon Vine.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  55 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing me softly with her song 24 Mar 2014
By Nathan Webster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I would not have expected to give five stars to a short story collection where my favorite chapter involved an unworn Chanel dress, and yet here we are.

This book will probably never be a bestseller. It's the kind of quiet narrative that might escape most major notice - but for those who do find it, however that happens, I think you'll feel yourself a participant in an unexpected club. Myself, I was mildly curious about the travel/overseas focus of the short stories and thought it would be an interesting narrative, if nothing especially memorable.

Instead, this collection has stuck with me in way I didn't anticipate. Each of the stories resonated with me for different reasons. It was not just because I had experienced similar situations, but that the emotions of Marciano's characters reflected such heartbreakingly familiar vibrations. It might be nostalgia from an object, like in "Chanel," or from a relationship, like "Roman Romance." In both these stories, she takes what starts as a conventional premise and layers detail upon detail over the character's emotions - never melodramatic, she plays each narrative entirely straightforward. Never is there a demand for the reader's emotion that the situation of the characters doesn't call for - but that deceptive simpleness is what most cuts to this reader's core.

Each story works on different levels. I'm used to short story collections where about 25 percent of the collection doesn't work for me, but in this case I could not pick out any story that I didn't enjoy. In only one story is there a strong off-note: an assault that doesn't seem as serious as it seems the situation should have called for. And in a couple cases the story's narrator is a little whiny - but that does reflect the personality of the character.

It's a gently magnificent collection. A summary of each story's contents wouldn't do them justice - and probably would have turned me off. You can read my other reviews for context of what I normally enjoy, and I can promise you that if someone had told me "your favorite story will be the one with the Chanel dress," I would have passed on reading this collection entirely.

But I didn't. There were moments here that took my breath away. Now I'm glad I'm in the Francesca Marciano club.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong yet sensitive voice 3 Mar 2014
By Trudie Barreras - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One tends to forget - at least, I do - how delightful short stories can be. Actually, I think that some of Marciano's narratives in "The Other Language" might more easily classify as novelettes, both by reason of length and also in terms of character development and time-span. In any event, this book provides a wealth of variety and insight, as well as atmosphere and descriptiveness. Although all the stories stand alone, and are completely unrelated in terms of locale and circumstance, they do carry a powerful theme of the milestones and crises that the reader recognizes as universal.

For those who are naturally drawn to the short-story format, this book should be absolutely satisfying; for those who would like to rediscover a book that can be picked up for an evening or a leisure afternoon, then put down again for another opportunity without fear of losing the thread of a longer narrative, it could be a real find. Francesca Marciano has a strong yet sensitive voice with myriad nuances.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of reinvention 27 April 2014
By Jill I. Shtulman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I feel as if I just discovered another goddess of the short story genre. Francesca Marciano's nine stories are so beautifully realized, so breathtaking in their scope, that I lost track of time while under their spell.

"After seven years of European life, she found herself smiling at the predicament she'd found herself in. It was a reminder that there were still places in the world where one could vanish, be lost, be found and rescued by strangers," Ms. Marciano writes in one of her stories.

Indeed, each one is, in its own way, a study of reinvention: of suddenly becoming visible or invisible, of uncovering elusive truths in exotic locales, of turning one's back on a tedious past, of recognizing the person one was meant to be.

In the Presence of Men - perhaps my favorite of the collection - a divorced woman named Lara attempts to reinvent herself in a charming and innocent Italian village. There she befriends an older woman, an extraordinary local seamstress. Yet when her brother arrives in town, accompanied by a famous actor, the ragged seams of the unspoiled town begin to reveal itself.

In another, Indian Soiree, an unmoored writer and his dissatisfied wife travel to India, where both begin to question the solidarity and trust of their relationship and who they really are. "The feeling they both had was of a tidal wave that kept gaining speed and had crashed upon them before they could take cover," the author writes,''

And, in the eponymous story, The Other Language, three young children travel from Rome to Greece with their father after the sudden death of their mother. "It impressed the children and seemed to cheer them up as if this time of greatest loss would coincide with the promise of a richer and more exciting lie. As if, by losing their mother, they had been promoted to a higher level of lifestyle." Many years later, the middle child reflects on what she lost...and more importantly, what she gained.

There is not one mediocre story in this entire marvelous collection. Whether Francesca Marciano is writing about a penny-pinching Italian woman who splurges on a Chanel dress that becomes a lifetime talisman or about a hermetic man who lives in a small island in Africa where he is found by a past girlfriend, the insights are extraordinary. ("Maybe he has chosen this place to venture inward rather than expand, since everything here - the people, the buildings, even the geography - lacks beauty and brilliance").

Do I love this book? You bet! For anyone who gets enthused about internal or external journeys or who are prepared to believe that "one always had to be prepared for anything to happen", this is a short story collection that will resonate long after you close the pages.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every one of these stories was exquisite 14 May 2014
By PT Cruiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not usually a fan of short story collections but I absolutely loved these stories by Francesca Marciano. Each one grabbed me in the first page or two and held me captive til the end. It's probably the first time a short story collection has kept me awake at night turning the pages. The stories were all about women in transition, living in different places, in different circumstances and different times of their lives, but each was such a unique story, unlike the others. Her character development was excellent, especially considering the short length of each story. I really wish some of them would have gone on, because I liked the characters so much, yet they all ended with some sort of satisfying resolution. Some make me sad, some made me laugh, and some had me thinking about them afterwards looking up the places were they took place on the Internet. This is a book I will definitely recommend to friends.

Marciano has written three other novels, Casa Rossa, Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa and The End of Manners: A Novel. After reading this short story collection I'm anxious to read her other books.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Set of Short Stories With an Italian Flavor 2 May 2014
By Mary Lins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
“The Other Language”, is a set of nine wonderful short stories by Francesca Marciano, some that are really too long to be called short stories and too short to be called novellas – which is to say that they are “just right”!

The title story involves a young girl named Emma, whose father has taken her and her siblings to a small Greek island the summer after their mother’s untimely death. It’s a poignant story of youth and grief and a tale of budding sexuality, and also a disturbing one.

“Chanel” is about a dress. I loved this story, for who hasn’t wanted something material solely for its beauty and how it makes one feel to own it – even if it’s practically foolish to purchase it?

In “An Indian Soirée”, a long-married couple are visiting India. They have very different temperaments and very different points of view and they are both deceiving each other. It was very interesting to read what happens to their marriage as a result.

One story surprisingly highlights the apartheid and marginalization experienced by a Scottish woman who married an Indian man and moved with him to Kenya.

“Quantum Theory” is a wonderfully poignant story about two people who meet in very unlikely places and in unlikely ways over the space of many years. Is their relationship “destiny” or forever missed opportunities?

All the stories in this collection have at least at touch of the Italian to them, as Marciano is presumably Italian (she lives in Rome), none more so than “The Italian System”, which is about a Roman transplanted in New York and explores the way that foreigners always remain somewhat un-assimilated and nostalgic for their “homeland” even if they perceive their homeland in ways that do not match reality.

Marciano’s stories took me places I’ve never been before; a remote island near east Africa, Greece, India, Kenya…and into unique characters and relationships as well. I recommend this to short story lovers!
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