The Italian Teacher

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 May 2018

Member Reviews

This is as much of a novel about the value of art as it is about the value of friends and family.  Extremely well written.
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I enjoyed this one as an artist myself. Very fun and intriguing.
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I absolutely love this cover and let’s face it I have a thing for basing books on being added to my TBR by the blurb and the cover. If it has a bad cover or a blurb I probably won’t read it because it’s supposed to represent the book as a whole and if they can’t do a suitable representation, then why should I read it?

I did have struggles with this book and had to put it down multiple times because I was so frustrated. I do not care for Bear or the way he treats his multiple children and wives. I believe he is a stereotypical representation of artists and that lends to creating a new trope. You know what I’m talking about, the artist who is self-centered and uncaring. The artist who puts...

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The first 80% reminded me of the Great Santini, but Rachman had something better, nicer in store for the coda. Can artists be parents? Perhaps not too well.
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I received an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review. I found myself having a hard time getting through this book because I really did not care for Bear. I understand that as a narcissist, his egotism and self-centeredness is kind of the point, but I don’t think I liked him as much as the author wanted me to. I find myself skimming through the parts with him in it, which gave me a somewhat reduced engagement with the other characters. Pinch, the son, I felt for him, but it was hard for me to fully understand his need to prove himself to a father that was so unlikable. The book is well written and the author does a great job of setting the book in a variety of unusual times...

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I wanted to like this but I just couldn't. stand Charlie's ranting, so I stopped reading. After I stopped, it was interesting to see the review of this book in the WSJ. Perhaps I shouldn't have stopped as he said there was a shift in tone toward the end but he also thought it should have come earlier.  Unfortunately, it was too late for me to continue..
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I love the colorful, vibrant cover of THE ITALIAN TEACHER by Tom Rachman. Unfortunately, I did not really care for the characters.  There is Bear Bavinsky, a painter who destroys much of his own work and fathers 17 children with numerous wives; plus, his son Charles, called Pinch and the Italian teacher of the title, who is born in 1950 and never seems to please his father. In fact, their names reflect my impressions: Bear is extremely self-centered and domineering while Pinch never seems to come into his own, failing at art. art history and personal relationships. Other works by Rachman include The Imperfectionists (2010) and The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (2014).
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“The moneyed all speak of art, the artists all speak of money.”

This is an unusual novel. Usually, the protagonist has a goal and has to overcome obstacles to achieve that goal. In this book, none of main characters are admirable. Bear Bavinsky is a celebrated artist when the story begins in 1955, but he treats the endless stream of women in his life like crap and ignores the seventeen children he has with wives and girlfriends and mistresses because he’s such an important artist he can’t be bothered.

One of his wives is Natalie, a potter who isn’t quite right in the head. Their son, Charles, or Pinch, has low self-esteem, in part thanks to Bear. Charles is the primary point of view in...

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This book and its protagonist won me over very gradually, as it progressed from 1955 to the present. At first, I found the earnest tone charming, but distancing. As Pinch/Charlie/Charles got older (and more cynical), it became easier to find layers of his personality to connect to. Even the title took me quite a while to get behind - but once I did, I adored it.
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Bear Bavinsky is an acclaimed American artist living in Rome in 1955 with his young Canadian wife Natalie and their little boy Charles, nicknamed Pinch. Bear is a huge man in both body and personality. He is totally focused on his work: "My real life, it's when I'm working. It's entirely there. The rest--everything--is flimflam. And that's tragedy."

Bear is a perfectionist who burns any painting that displeases him. His vision for his art is that it should hang in museums where many people can admire his work, rather than belonging to private collectors.

Bear's magnum opus, his 'Life-Still' series, depicts women's body parts and was...

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The Italian Teacher is destined to be one of my favorite reads of the year.

Tom Rachman's character Pinch is the son of a philandering, larger-than-life artist, Bear Bavinsky. Bear is charming and unreliable.

Pinch spends his entire life trying to get his dad's attention and approval. He imitates his dad, smoking a pipe early. In a one day lesson Bear teachers Pinch the fundamentals of painting and Pinch dreams of following in his father's footsteps.

Bear abandons Pinch and his mother, once his model, for the next model to pose for him; he leaves a string of women behind him and seventeen neglected children.

Bear routinely destroys any canvas he deems subpar. And he...

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'When she was living here with Pinch alone, Natalie heard from nobody. Then Bear moved to Rome and the invitations gushed in.'

1950’s Rome, successful artist Bear Bavinsky is the center of his wife Natalie (Natty) and Son Pinch’s (Charles) lives. It’s a whirlwind when he is with them, and like death when he is absent. Natty longs to be taken seriously as an artist, but ‘lady potters’ aren’t taken seriously, unlike painters such as Bear who was raved about in Life magazine. Everyone wants a piece of him, longs to know his secrets but he burns most of his work. ‘Maybe six canvases a year make the cut.’ Such revelations create mystery, make him far more sought after. Bear wants...

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I requested this novel because I adored The Imperfectionists. In particular, Rachman’s ability to build characters is amazing. He does the same here ... but, —and it’s a big but— the characters (at least for the first half of the book) were completely unlikeable. If it hadn’t been an author I enjoyed so much in the past I would have bailed before getting to all of the goodness of the last third of the book. By that point, the plot began to unfold in a very satisfying way. Also, characters were redeemed and introduced allowing me to care about the resolution. The ending alone was worth the build up. Overall, a pick.
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Is it possible to really enjoy a book even though the main character is pretty much all-around unattractive? In looks, demeanor, attitude, thought? I think it must be, because I really enjoyed The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman even though Pinch, our “hero,” is pretty pathetic. As the son Bear Bavinsky, a famous and philandering painter, Pinch lives his life struggling to earn his father’s approval. He questions every move, every decision, every conversation – hoping that it is the “right” one. He finds himself teaching Italian at a small, unremarkable college in London having cast aside long ago his desire to paint. When he finds himself suddenly in Bear’s confidence and good graces, he...

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Not only is this a book about relationships, but it also prompts the reader to reflect on the purpose of life and the direction one chooses to follow. The bigger-than-life figure of the artist Bear Bavinsky overpowers everyone--his wives, lovers, and children. He is controlling both of everyone around him and his artistic legacy. As we follow the life of  Charlie (Pinch), Bear's favorite child who becomes the Italian teacher , we see how he kowtows to his father and how insecure he is throughout his life. But when Charlie finally admits to himself that  all his life he has been trying to please his father, he makes a monumental decision.

An interesting and introspective read.
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