Tobias Jones' remarkable book essential reading for Italy enthusiasts: The Dark Heart of Italy
(subtitled Travels Through Time and Space across Italy
) is unlike any book on the country you may have read before. It is not a guide to Italy's art, or her geographical splendours. Nor is it a guide to her amazing cuisine. And it is not an examination of the Italian character. It does, however, contain elements of all of these and much more. When the author emigrated to Italy in 1999, he expected the customary ravishing of the senses that Italy usually provides. But, looking beneath the surface, Jones was astonished to encounter surprising undercurrents, among them national paranoia and the crippling fear inspired by terrorists (the Italian parliament, it seems, has a 'Slaughter Commission').
This is, of course, the country of Silvio Berlusconi, the tycoon whose controversial election via his stranglehold on the media was (to British eyes at least) something that should not be countenanced in a non-totalitarian country. While always taking on board the glories of Italy, Jones' picture of the country is both fascinating and disturbing: this is a land torn apart by civil wars and endemic corruption, the still influential Cosa Nostra and unbending Catholicism exert considerable sway.
Italy remains utterly unlike any of its European neighbours. Jones sees links between the powerful creativity of the Italian soul and the 'dark heart' that he refers to in his title. What is most remarkable about the book is the fact that no one who loves Italy will be at all disenchanted to encounter the truths that Jones presents to us. If anything, the complex and contradictory nation that emerges will hold an even greater fascination for both the serious student and the casual visitor. --Barry Forshaw
(An) excellent first book. -- Andrew Marr, Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2003
He is an affectionate, occasionally appalled observer, an inside-outsider. He is unmistakably not a tourist. -- Independent, 18 January 2003
His brilliant and sometimes polemical essay. -- Financial Times, 11 January 2003
Incisive and intelligent, this is the book to take on your Italian holiday. -- Conde Nast Traveller, 1 January 2003
Jones can be recommended as an informed, entertaining and admirably opinionated guide to the evolving situation. -- Sunday Times, 12 January 2003
Jones strikes just the right balance between history, anecdote and facts ... a brilliant, though bleak, book. -- New Statesman, 20 January 2003
The Dark Heart will ensure that Italy remains an object of our fascination. -- Observer, 19 January 2003
Tobias Jones' brilliant and funny account of a country now under the control of one all-powerful ruler. -- Guardian, 11 January 2003