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The Italian Teacher Hardcover – March 20, 2018
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An Amazon Best Book of March 2018: What if your father was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated painters: Julian Schnabel, say, or Lucian Freud? How would you define yourself against that kind of talent and machismo? In The Italian Teacher, his utterly absorbing third novel, Tom Rachman sets in play just that dynamic. Bear Bavinsky is a world-famous painter, a first-class narcissist, and father of seventeen children, whom he treats with careless, sometimes callous, warmth. Bear’s shy son Pinch loves to paint, but his ambitions are snuffed by his father’s offhand critique: “I got to tell you, kiddo. You’re not an artist and you never will be.” After that, nothing in Pinch’s life seems to gel -- until after Bear’s death, when Pinch’s role as caretaker of his father’s legacy grants him scope to come into his own. Ironies abound.
As with Rachman’s 2010 newsroom novel The Imperfectionists, it’s a testament to the credibility of the narrative that you feel he may be writing about real people, thinly disguised as fiction. But in The Italian Teacher, Rachman is a more likeable storyteller: his social satire seems more thoroughly tempered by sympathy and a longer perspective. Lately, a number of excellent novels have focused on the impact of a single painting (The Goldfinch; The Painted Kiss; The Fortunate Ones, to name a few). The Italian Teacher looks at art with a less reverential slant, and asks intriguing questions, along the way, about the costs, and value, of the artistic life. If you enjoyed William Boyd’s Any Human Heart, you’ll love Rachman’s portrait of Pinch, who has the good luck to both outlive and survive his famous father, and to find, in the end, a way to take ownership of his difficult legacy. —Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Amazon.com, Instyle, Poets and Writers, Southern Living, Seattle Times, Chicago Review of Books, Newsday, The Boston Herald, and more
“Rachman is a brilliant choreographer of skewed desires . . . He has a deft way of describing atrocious behavior without damning his characters, without suggestions that they’re entirely circumscribed by their worst acts. His comedy is tempered by a kind of a gentleness that’s a salve in these mean times . . . An exotic touch of intrigue arises in THE ITALIAN TEACHER . . . Rachman brings his own, warmer touch to the crime, transforming it into a surprising act of defiance that’s both deliciously ironic and deeply affectionate.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Engaging and subtle . . . Rachman appears in perfect control of his material . . . engrossing, by turns gently humorous . . . The Italian Teacher is a psychologically nuanced pleasure." — New York Times Book Review
“A poignant, touching tale about living in the shadow of a brazen artistic genius. . . Unforgettable.” –USA Today
"Masterfully illustrates how malicious a father-son rivalry can be." — People
“The reliably excellent Rachman this time offers a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a celebrated painter looking ahead to his legacy.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Pencils down, brushes up: Rachman goes beyond the base coat with THE ITALIAN TEACHER, a portrait of a son his large-scale father.” – Vanity Fair
"In The Italian Teacher, Rachman manages to conjure a fresh perspective on fame and its destructive effects on the people ensnared by it. Instead of running toward celebrity, readers may find themselves instead turning around and running away." — Chicago Tribune
“Rachman wrestles with age-old questions: What is the purpose of art? How do we judge excellence? Does fame matter? . . . [THE ITALIAN TEACHER] moves with the energy and gusto of Bear. With Pinch/Charles, it broods and hopes and plumbs the depths. That’s a lot to expect of any novel, yet THE ITALIAN TEACHER delivers in spades.”—Dan Cryer, San Francisco Chronicle
“[THE ITALIAN TEACHER] takes satisfyingly unexpected turns, especially when the reader might expect a clichéd depiction of father-son strife. And Rachman offers a nuanced portrait of talented people whose lives don’t work out the way they had hoped.”—Newsday
“[An] artful page-turner.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“A momentous drama of a volatile relationship and the fundamental will to survive.” —Booklist, starred review
“The Italian Teacher is a rich novel with a colorful cast of memorable characters.” —Hello Giggles
“Along with the skewering of art-world and academic pretensions, there is humor, humanity, and compassion in Rachman’s writing. For most fiction readers.” —Library Journal
"The Italian Teacher is a marvel--an entertaining, heartbreaking novel about art, family, loyalty, and authenticity. Tom Rachman is an enormously talented writer--this book is alive, from the first page to the last." —Tom Perotta, bestselling author of The Leftovers
Praise for Tom Rachman:
"[Rachman] writes perfectly and with a warm, twinkling-eyed generosity toward human behavior that does not get in the way of his pitiless observation of it." — Lorrie Moore, The New Yorker
"[The Imperfectionists is] so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off. I still haven't answered that question, nor do I know how someone so young could have acquired such a precocious grasp of human foibles. The novel is alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching, and it's assembled like a Rubik's Cube." --Christopher Buckley, The New York Times
"Mr. Rachman's transition from journalism to fiction writing is nothing short of spectacular. The Imperfectionists is a splendid original, filled with wit and structured so ingeniously that figuring out where the author is headed is half the reader's fun. The other half comes from his sparkling descriptions not only of newspaper office denizens but of the tricks of their trade, presented in language that is smartly satirical yet brimming with affection." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Top customer reviews
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This is such a beautifully written book, one that I became fully emerged in. Pinch is such a conflicted soul and tries so hard to impress his father, only to fall flat due to Bear’s egocentricity. My heart broke over and over for him and I just wanted to shake him and tell him to go live his own life. Natalie becomes so unstable and insecure but her constant love for her son shines throughout the book. Bear, as despicable as he can be, also has a charming side and it’s obvious why his son is so blinded by him. This is a vivid portrayal of a man who has lived his life for someone else’s art, ignoring his own dreams. I often wanted to Google these people to find out more about them, they were that real.
Most highly recommended.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Tom Rachman: Whatever inspiration that led you to write The Imperfectionists: Please find that again!
Most recent customer reviews
The “headlines” on the back cover don’t do this book justice.Read more