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Italian Neighbors
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on February 2, 2018
Having lived in Italy for several years, “Italian Neighbors” rang true in so many ways that I could not have envisioned prior to personal experience. Tim Parks is a very good storyteller and observer of people and culture. His stories and explanations of Italian ways, of “moments” as we call them in our household, brought back memories (both find and not-so). And now I better understand some things I once thought imponderable from an American perspective.
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on August 18, 2014
It is not possible to come away from this book roaring with laughter, and a tonic for low spirits and a refreshing boost to the heart. A generally "happy, " if quixotic and mirthful book, it contains much that is edifying about the Italian spirit and Italian way of life that we can profit from in our neurotic driven cultures. Yet, no civilization or culture is perfect, and we may intuit a sense of frustration, resignation, and sometimes cynical view of life exhibited in Italian culture and wring out hands at the foolish frustrations that Italians must endure. One may come away from this book wishing one were an Italian inhabiting those towns of ineffable beauty, but glad to be doing such daydreaming in countries that are less eccentric and less unorthodox--and a bit more pragmatic-- in political and civic matters.
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on May 9, 2015
I am addicted to Tim Parks ever since I picked up his first book (Italian Ways) in a bookshop on a weekend trip to Rome last year. All in all, Italian Neighbors is my favorite book by the author so far. It has the charm of being the first book he wrote in his "my life in Italy" series. The style is simple, author's ability to savor and convey the Italian life extraordinary. Read by someone today, it is also a recent enough time capsule which brings you to the Italy of the eighties: Italy before cell phones, Italy before decades of economic downhill, Italy before the angry generation of 30 somethings on temporary contracts. Italy where prosperity still feels recent. My favorite thing about Tim Parks is that he takes small and makes it big. In this book, he takes on one house with four apartments without any elaborated story line, and yet you feel that you have gained something very significant when you put the book down. My second favorite thing about Tim Parks is that he is pained by Italy and yet he absolutely loves it. What comes out as a result for me is a sense of wonder that I cannot resist.
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on March 28, 2018
I simply could not get through this book. I found the writers writing style annoying and unbearable
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on January 15, 2018
second time on this book for it.
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VINE VOICEon April 16, 2008
This is a non-fiction memoir by Tim Parks who wrote the book after spending 10 years with his wife Rita living in Verona, Italy. Parks, places you in this Italian neighborhood where you learn of quirks and lives of the neighbors. You learn about why the government is an inefficient as it is. You learn about the 3 distinct class structures in Italy and why government employees are considered to be at the top of the food chain. You learn why Italy never seems to dig out of corruption and inefficiency. Yet, family members yearn to live in the same neighborhood for all of their lives and don't really look for their lives to change. This is all interwoven into an interesting story with Parks' usual writing magnificence. I labored at times over the author's environment descriptions but was pulled along waiting in anticipation for his character descriptions and interactions. Here's a nugget of what to expect:

"...despite all the disillusionment, a very profound, heartfelt satisfaction with the way things are and a determination that they should remain so. I plump for it because it has the hallmark of that profound schizophrenia, which is also the charm, of all matters Italian: the Pope adored and ignored, the law admired and flouted, politicians despised and reelected. The gulf between officialdom's façade and private thought that façade is always supported. Nothing changes. Italy, one sometimes things, is as if frozen in the high noon of its postwar prosperity."

This NY Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year lives up to its billing.
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on March 28, 2018
I read this book several years ago before I had been to Italy. I purchased a new copy to re-read, then give to a friend.
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on March 17, 2015
I really enjoyed the book. I moved to Rome 9 months ago and many of his insights into the Italian psyche are correct. His writing is very engaging and it was an effortless read.

If Mr. Parks is reading this review, 2 things to note:

1) Caqui fruit is very common throughout the world and the English name is Persimmon
2) The mosquito problem was very easy to solve. I bought generic window netting for 8 Euros and it installs with velcro on any window frame - problem solved :)
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on October 3, 2005
* I rented that apartment! (except in ours we found dentures...)

* I had those neighbors, that landlady! (we had different factions calling us on the phone asking details about which other faction may have taken furniture and warning us not to speak to the opposing factions!)

* We had not one but two hound-dogs tied up on the terrace below, in full cry 23 hours out of 24, and each utility bill was in the name of a different dead relative.

I can't think of another book that made me laugh to the point of tears! This is the REAL ITALY (at least, the real Italy as viewed by an Anglo-Saxon). Priceless for anyone thinking of making the move, or who is interested in a regular "slice of life" that isn't all sunflowers and wine, pasta and mandolins... Also worth reading is the continuation in "An Italian Education" but this one is fresher and funnier.
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on September 27, 2015
What a culture shock this book is. A fascinating microcosm of Italian village life with all the eccentric neighbors. Great read for those who admire Italian life.
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