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The American: Previously Published as "A Very Private Gentleman" [Paperback]

Martin Booth
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Aug 2010

The locals in the Italian village where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr Butterfly. He is a discreet gentleman who spends his time studying rare butterflies.

But Farfalla's real profession is deadly. He considers himself an artisan, not for the butterflies he paints but for the guns he creates for assassins.

Farfalla has resolved to make his next job his last. Then, perhaps, he can settle down comfortably in the Italian village he has grown to love and enjoy the remainder of his life without constantly looking over his shoulder.

But a treacherous circle is closing in on him...

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 2 Mti edition (17 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312430019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312430016
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 16.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,156,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"There are echoes of Nabokov in this in this tense and poetic mystery" (Today)

"Crisp yet lyrical, simple yet intelligent...haunting, shocking, and tense...Readers looking for thought-provoking literary fiction can't do any better than this" (Booklist)

"A psychological suspense thriller invested with life-and-death gravitas" (Seattle Times)

"With Farfalla, Booth has a created a rich, conflicted antihero whose clever rationalizations mask a soul weary with self-doubt" (Boston Globe)

"The lazy, languid setting is an eerily effective backdrop for the fresh and beguiling murder intrigue...With first-rate characters and a gradual buildup of suspense, Booth constructs a focused, tightly written novel" (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A haunting psychological thriller, re-released to tie in to the major new film starring George Clooney --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio Cassette
The austere narrator weaves a fascinating tale around his themes of dedicated professionalism, unstinting craftsmanship, their importance at crucial moments in world history, and the sadness of their decline in our times. It is set in a meticulously created atmosphere of intrigue and mounting suspense. His story, and his life, unravels against the foreground of the modern people and ancient buildings of a lovingly described Italian hill town, culminating in a violent and quite unexpected conclusion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expect it when you don't expect it. 28 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback
First of all when I purchased that book, I pretty much guessed it would be quite far from the movie whose title it borrowed. And reading reviews of the movie itself, there seem to have been a ill-thought packaging as an action-thriller, Bourne-type of story which could not be more different from reality.

In other words the movie's marketing does not reflect its content, neither does the book.

Therefore I haven't been disappointed at all by the novel. It's a one-chapter, 400 page story about a trader in sophisticated gunsmithing, who is doing what he'd like to be his last assignment while staying covert in a small Italian village. There, he finds out the village would not be a bad place to settle down for the long term, as if all other places he's been before had brought a certainty that he would not stay.

I know Italy a bit and enjoy its country life. Booth's story is fresh, original and slow, as slow as life that trickles down in such a small Abbruzio village. The pace of the story translates perfectly the pace of daily life, and here and then you can find some precious moments, such as the hero and the priest sharing wine, cheese and "charcuterie" in a garden under an umbrella... As precious as when I actually lived such moments myself and could totally relate.

Booth bothers (and relishes doing so) with all the right names of cheeses, wines and sausages, as well as detialed descriptions of those little snapshots of Italian quotidien... Espresso and a glass of water by the terrace, the slow acquaintancy and then friendship that develops between Seniore Farfalla and the locals...

It's delicious just reading about it.. I just loved that book.

The only downside is that it is 400 pages, one-chapter non-stop book... It matches the rythm of the story, but it's a real pain to stop at a convenient moment in order to pick it up later.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, absorbing, excellent 11 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback
Had to leave a review of this book, as I think it's worth much more than three stars.

Yes, it isn't your traditional thriller, as might be suggested by Clooney's image on the cover. But then neither is the film.

I found this story totally absorbing and brilliantly paced. There is action in places, but the author's skill is to build tension throughout. Even when the idyllic setting is being described, the tension is always there... threatening to burst into life.

If you're a fan of Italy in any way then you'll also find this very evocative of the place, the people and the lifestyle.

I would heartily recommend The American. It's not an action thriller, though there is action. It's not a crime novel really, although the protagonist is a criminal. It's a story of a man's life lived in an unusual trade, his personality and his very human fears.

The plot will have you gripped, but you won't want to race to the end. Like Signor Farfalle, you'll want to spend more time amongst the people and places that inhabit the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Distinctive and Original Novel 5 Nov 2009
By b
Format:Paperback
I first read this book a while ago, at least 10 years I think, but it is one of those books that I have returned to frequently. Booth creates memorable characters in a beautifully constructed setting, allows us to feel sympathy and understanding for his protagonist and then fashions an ironic ending that takes us by surprise.

An elderly Englishman seems to have retired to a beautiful Italian village. He shares meals with the village priest, paints pictures of flowers and butterflies and visits the local brothel regularly. He is considering retirement and believes he has found his ideal home once he has finished one final job. Gradually, Booth reveals to us the nature of his work and the steps he takes to preserve his privacy. Slowly the book turns from a celebration of the beauty of rural Italy into an absorbing thriller which is narrated by Mr Butterfly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frederick Forsyth meets Laurie Lee 13 Jun 2011
By Sagan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was surprised how closely the book resembles the film-there are differences of course. The character in the book takes pride in his work and is not haunted by his actions. There are plot changes but the book still has the atmosphere of the film.

The Swedish scene at the beginning of the film is actually mentioned in passing towards the end of the book .

The book evokes the atmosphere of a small Italian hill town beautifuly . The writing is superb and moves from suspense to the beautiful prose that Laurie Lee would have been proud of .

This lists as one of my favourite books. As mentioned by other reviewers do not expect macho constant action . However, if you would like to live in Italy in your mind for a 400 pages then buy this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a thriller but a brilliant read 9 Aug 2012
By Penny Waugh TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Have to say straight off that I have no interest at all in the film that was made from this excellent book - the mere title is enough to kill it for me (hardly an American in sight) and I wish I could have had a copy with the proper title: A Very Private Gentleman, which describes the main character so exactly.
I loved this book. It has thriller elements but it is not your usual thriller, which might have put off some of the reviewers who disliked it. I like thrillers, but this captivated me. I loved the descriptions of the elderly hero's home in Italy, the descriptions of the countryside and the characters of the small town he would have loved to have called his permanent home. The tension is gradually rachetted as menace comes closer to Mr Butterfly, and there is melancholy at the end, but I loved the man, respected his opinions, appreciated his calling, and am now keen to read everything that the, sadly, late author wrote.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars In French!
Since the original order I have received and returned two copies of the book in French! Upon the second return I have been informed that no attempt at replecement will be made and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by JF Horton
5.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous!
Beautifully written, compelling story, great characterisation. This is much better than the movie (which I also enjoyed). You get so much more sense of who the main character is. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sarah Swann
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, much better than the movie.
I enjoyed the movie but the book blows it away. Much deeper understanding of the character, if the movie had used some of the monologues it would have ben greatly improved. Read more
Published 11 months ago by mikem4491
3.0 out of 5 stars The book of the film
I bought the book because, having watched the film twice I'm left with unanswered questions. The author's style tends to be cumbersome with too much description of the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Just Ray
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent & immersive
The film of the same name is, in my view, excellent. It's sparse, tense and beautifully shot. On that basis I decided to try the book being fully aware that the screenplay for the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by The Lamb
1.0 out of 5 stars Italian-American at it's worst
Having been mystified by the film, I elected to buy the book in the hope that by reading the story I would understand it better, but with the lengthy, often unnecessary diatribe... Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2012 by Michael Bull
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull as ditchwater
Having watched "The American" I thought I would rather like to read the book that the film was loosely based on not realising that the word loosely was an understatement par... Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2011 by Paul Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars A very Private Gentleman - Martin Booth
An excellent and most unusual thriller. Exquisite descriptions of the Italian countryside and way of life, interspersed with a taut storyline. Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by Mrs. Philippa Hogan
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want it to end.....
I bought the book because I had watched the film, and I had found the film interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. Read more
Published on 15 May 2011 by Michael Badu
1.0 out of 5 stars A Very Private Gentleman
At times I get half way through a book and wonder whether to bother finishing it. I forced myself to finish this book and realise that is several hours of my life I won't be able... Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2011 by S. Deville
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