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Portofino [Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Frank Schaeffer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1997
Some kids told lies to be special. Calvin told lies to be normal. The son of a missionary family, he looks forward all year to summer vacation in Portofino -- especially since he'll once again have the chance to see his beloved Jennifer. But even in this seductive seaside town in Italy, the Beckers can't really relax. Calvin's father could slip into a Bad Mood and start hurling potted plants at any time. His mother has an embarrassing habit of trying to convert "pagans" on the beach. And his sister keeps a ski sweater and miniature Bible in her luggage just in case the Russians invade and send them to Siberia. Dad says everything is part of God's plan. But this summer, Calvin has some plans of his own. From the author of Saving Grandma, this delightful coming-of-age novel will bring a smile of recognition to anyone who's ever been embarrassed by their parents.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks (Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786104740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786104741
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 17.1 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Description


" 'Eloquently captures the atmosphere of place and period... Schaeffer describes both the pleasures and the occasional torments of childhood with charm and humour...The warmth of characterisation is matched by the novel's rich evocation of Italian life, and the accuracy with which it captures the nuances of 1960s manners' - THE TIMES 'Evocative, funny and wonderfully observed, reading this book is a holiday in itself' - GUARDIAN 'Not since Huck Finn has American literature been graced with a character as irresistible as Calvin Dort Becker' - ANDRES DUBUS III 'Poignant and hilarious...by turns, sentimental, celebratory, evocative and very funny' - LOS ANGELES TIMES 'Beautifully written with great insight and unselfconscious humour' - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

‘Some kids I met told lies to be special. I told lies to be normal...’

It is the early 60s and for young Calvin Becker, the son of embarrassingly over-zealous American missionaries, the family holiday on the Italian Riviera resort of Portofino is the highlight of the year. But even under the seductive influence of a Mediterranean summer, the remaining members of Calvin’s family seem incapable of ever really relaxing. His father’s always slipping into one of his Bad Moods, his mother will insist on trying to convert the ‘pagans’ on the beach, while his big sister Janet keeps a ski sweater and a miniature bible in her suitcase because you never knew when the Russians might invade and pack you off to Siberia.
Calvin’s dad says everything is part of God’s Plan. Well, this particular summer, Calvin has a few plans of his own...plans that involve such exuberantly pagan locals as Gino the whisky-drinking painter, the Bagnino and his boats, the very sensible and very English Bazlintons and – above all – their very lovely daughter Jennifer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the compelling story of a boy from an American missionary family living in Switzerland who vacation every year in Portofino, Italy.

Having been a missionary child myself (although my parents were nothing like Calvin's and from a different flavor of Protestantism) I could relate to many of the situations in the book . Calvin's family lives in a sort of fundamentalist La La land where Catholics are the ultimate evil and must be converted yet free will has no meaning and only the "elect" are saved. They would be a moral superfamily if they lived by their own ideals, but the father has an uncontrollable temper and the mother goes against everything in which she says she believes in the one scene in the book which streatches credulity (I won't give away the details), making the sinners they are trying to convert look like the real saints.

In the end, Calvin shows signs of becoming a normal productive member of society by thinking critically about the things which have been drilled into his head by his family and engaging in harmless but nonetheless forbidden activities which are a normal part of coming of age.

A word of warning: although the book sets boundaries of decency which are never crossed, I'm sure that many fundamentalists would be aghast at its light treatment of a way of thinking which is still prevalent today.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mishkids must read this 14 Sep 2012
A mishkid is someone brought up in a missionary family. Often also referred to as a third culture kid, they are members of neither their parents' country's culture nor the culture in which they are brought up. Army kids and embassy kids also find it difficult to answer the question 'Where are you from?'

Portofino describes the tensions of being a mishkid beautifully. Not Swiss, not Italian, but not really American, not grown up but not a child, not religious but not worldly, Calvin Becker is more my kind of guy than Holden Caulfield.

Often hilarious, beautifully descriptive and a wry send up of the silly world of the religious.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Faction? 11 April 2008
I am surprised than no reviewers here have picked up on the fact that this is not so much a novel as a sort of autobiography. Despite the standard fiction disclaimer of no relation to living or dead persons the author has subsequently referred to semi-autobiographical novels and his Crazy For God autobiography published in 2007. In both cases an American Presbyterian missionary family resident in Switzerland holiday in Portofino. Their US sending church denomination splits. The father is bad tempered and violent but not so pious as the mother, she of long prayers and embarrassing evangelism. The boy narrator goes to boarding school in England. He has learning difficulties. Sex plays a big part in his young life. His pious elder sister are good obedient little missionaries. He is not. He loves to be with the local homosexual artist. All these are in the recent autobiography so how much of the rest is fiction is open to question.

The author is gifted in his descriptive writing of Italy and his adolescent development rings true but unless I had known some of this family in real life I would not have found it a gripping plot. His mother's agressive evangelism and his father's violence are hard to believe. Calvin Becker is an angry young missionary kid. Frank Schaeffer seems to be still angry even now in his fifties.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story! 5 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Portofino is a superb book. The story is excellent and realistic. Portofino reminds me of my own vacations as a child to the South of France. I especially like the ending, I think we can all relate to that sad and empty feeling of a child when vacations are coming to an end.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As a missionary kid myself I didn't grow up in a family like this, but I recognized the same dynamics I saw in the families of fellow missionaries. This book was altogether fascinating and funny. My brother and I were in stitches of laughter as I read aloud to him the chapter in which Calvin tries to outwit predestination by tipping and then quickly uprighting the salt shaker at the dinner table. Calvin's logic is impeccable in this chapter! For anyone brought up in a conservative evangelical Christian family, this is a "must-read!"
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