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The Good Italian Hardcover – 8 May 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (8 May 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1848549148
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848549142
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 179,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Powerful . . . satisfyingly gritty . . . excellent storytelling and rounded characters to really care about - Irish Times

An affecting tale of ordinary people trapped in the coils of history - Sunday Times

A fascinating era . . . an enthralling read. Burke's novel will whet your appetite to learn more about it - --Mail on Sunday Ireland

Profound and moving --Red

Sublimely beautiful --Bookbag

Book Description

Set in the Italian colony of Eritrea during the Second World War, The Good Italian is a love story, a war story, a story of heroism and of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Will appeal to fans of Louis de Berniere's Captain Corelli's Mandolin and the novels of William Boyd.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. L. Rees TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
1935, Eritrea - an Italian colony en route to Ethiopia, which Mussolini now craves. Lonely harbourmaster Enzo Secchi seeks a housekeeper to satisfy his needs. Aatifa is desperate for money, her reasons in due course movingly revealed.

Ahead lies a developing love story severely tested by war, especially once Italians are banned from sex with inferior species. (The race is most special and must keep itself pure.)

This involving novel works well on many levels. Under scrutiny is the whole concept of colonialism. Enzo had always been a loyal advocate - convinced it brought benefits to all. Deeply shocked, he grows to realize it but a cover for ruthless exploitation. Where else has he been so wrong? What about flamboyant Salvatore, friend since childhood and now prominent in the Italian army?

The period is well evoked, as is this part of Eritrea. Light is shed on a lead-up to World War II hitherto perhaps not given the publicity deserved. Amongst characters who make their mark are Enzo's colourful sister Maria and his loyal chief assistant Daniel. Unpleasant from the moment he first appears is the officious, treacherous Bobbio.

Despite scenes of carnage, this proves a gentle read centred on two people who appeal. Surely theirs, though, is a doomed relationship? The ominous Prologue makes clear circumstances most grim, Aatifa a desperate fugitive with blood on her hands. Should readers from the start be prepared for the worst?

Stephen Burke mentions that the novel originated from an idea for a film. Certain sequences are certainly vividly depicted in visual terms, the final moments particularly. For many, however, the lasting impression will be of a couple long overdue for happier times.

Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
1935: Enzo Secchi is harbourmaster in the main port of the Italian colony of Eritrea in North Africa. Enzo is an engaging, slightly downtrodden sort of Everyman character, living a relatively peaceful but lonely existence. At the behest of his fun-loving childhood friend, ladies-man Salvatore (now a high-ranking Colonel in the occupying Italian army), he hires a local woman as his housekeeper, with a view to providing ‘other services’. Enter Aafita, a proud and dignified woman who makes it clear that keeping house for Enzo is not her idea of a dream job and she has her own private reasons for needing to demean herself so. At first Enzo is intimidated by her and the pair tiptoe around each other, but soon a mutual respect builds and their relationship flourishes.

As the war between Italy and Ethiopia merges with the beginnings of WW2, the book takes a darker turn as the characters’ lives are ripped apart. It’s a novel about loyalty, betrayal, honour and shame, and there are no easy answers at the end of it.

The slightly whimsical style at the beginning of the book put me in mind of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing, and I understand there have been comparisons to Captain Correlli’s Mandolin (though I found it a lighter read). There’s a moral dilemma at the heart of the book and I don’t think Enzo comes across in a particularly ‘good’ light at first. His treatment of Aafita, no matter how well meaning his intentions, can only be described as exploitation, although he does take steps to redeem himself as the story progresses. For this reason, I think the book will provide plenty of meat for book groups to get their teeth into and spark a few lively debates.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Terry D TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Set in the Italian/Eritrean Red Sea port of Massawa the story revolves around the loyal and unmarried Italian harbourmaster who, after some light-hearted persuasion by his lifelong friend - an Italian Colonel - finally agrees with his suggestion about employing an Eritrean housekeeper.

As that initially cool relationship between harbourmaster and housekeeper slowly evolves Mussolini, in far off Rome, decides to add Ethiopia to his fledgeling African empire. Since Massawa is the only port of entry that decision is to change our harbourmaster's life, and that of his Eritrean `housekeeper', in a dangerously final way.

The use of Massawa as a staging post for the invasion of Ethiopia includes a sudden and unexpected diktat that any form of relationship between Italian men and Eritrean women is forbidden - and punishable by a lengthy prison sentence. One of the Italian ministries has, in any case, conveniently arranged for several hundred young, not so young, Italian women to arrive at the same time as Italian forces.

Although Stephen Burke is highly knowledgeable about both Eritrea and that period in Italian history he deftly avoids the risk - unlike so many authors - of giving us page after page of (generally unnecessary) history. The end result, as the book cover so accurately says, is `a story of love and war - and of finding hope in the midst of chaos'.

I couldn't put it any better. Read and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Both the Macs VINE VOICE on 23 Aug 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here is war. War at it's worst, but no different from any other war; for men take sides and fight others, loyalties change, people are killed, people are hurt, both physically and mentally. But the strength to survive also includes the will to love. Enzo is the Italian harbourmaster at Massawa, Eritrean port and part of the growing Italian empire in 1935. His friend, Salvatore, a colonel in the Italian army who has never seen battle, is posted at the local garrison, and is living the good life. Salvatore has an Eritrean girlfreind as so many Italians in this area do, and he urges Enzo to take an Eritrean housekeeper, who will cook and clean for him.... and perhaps share his bed sometimes. Then Aatifa comes into his life.

A nice and quiet life - until Mussolini decideds that he wants Ethiopa in his empire, and the troops will come in via the port of Massawa. It is then that things change very quickly. Enzo, the beaurocratic form filler and decent man, finds himself in the middle of a war that he wants nothing to do with. Someone decrees that taking an Eritrean as a wife or lover is against the law. Italians soon ditch their exotic girlfriends, even those who have children with their Italian partners.

This book has a very slow start, and for a while I wondered where it was going. But stick with it is my advice, and you will soon find yourself caught up in Enzo's life. The descriptions throughout the book are perfect, they give you the feel of everything - the port, Enzo's office, his home, even the bedclothes in a brothel are there before your eyes. But it is as fighting escalates that the shocks start. Small men in big jobs become so foul that you hate them for it; good men must very quickly obey orders that go with the wearing of a uniform.
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