on 25 April 2002
As an Italian, I found this book excellent. For a start, it sweeps aside all the common places and prejudices about Italians (the Catholic country, etc.)
It's a very accurate, documented and true to life portrait of today's Italy. Among its other merits, it's devoid of those anecdotes in the style of Tim Park or Beppe Severgnini, which some may find funny, but that I find so irritating in the long run.
He explains how Italy has changed in the past decade: Tangentopoli, Mani Pulite, the fall of the traditional parties, the ever-growing wealth and the following loss of moral values, the immigration from non-EC Countries, etc.
It's just a pity that it's a bit outdated. I would like to read more by Charles Richards on Italian politics (e.g. last year's election of Silvio Berlusconi and his huge conflict of interest, that is putting our democracy at risk).
In short, one of the best books about Italy I've read, both by foreign or Italian authors.
on 4 March 2001
Explaining the state of Italian society is never easy. Even to those who have lived in it everyday of their lives (like I have most of my life). So Charles Richards gave himself a very hard task and I don't think he accomplished what he set out to do. Firstly, he tries to explain the corruption scandals that rocked Italy in the early 90s. He manages it with great difficulty. It such a complicated part of my country's history that I don't think that anybody will be fully able to understand what happened and to what extent it has affected Italy. This leads to my second criticism. Richards attempts to make a judgement on how Italy has coped with everything that happened. It ends with him sounding patronising about Italian society and culture. My third and final criticism is that this book is grossely out of date. I know that all social sciences books are out of date the moment they are published, but today's Italy is so different from that of the mid - 90s that it really is time that the author brings out a second edition. In conclusion I'd say that Charles Richards obviously knows his stuff but he does not use the wealth of knowledge to the extent that he could of.
on 12 August 2001
I have read the book and I rate it a good one. The writer seems to have a good grasp of italian things, not the usually mamma and spaghetti stuff, but a deeper insight. Perhaps being Mr. Richards a brit he can't help with a little patronizing attitude.. But I think Italy deserves it. Actually the writer makes the best compliment ever to italian: I don't remember the exact words, but basically the concept is: it's not true that italians are the "siesta" kind of people": actually they are hard-working people, and not because they have a religious-moral issue behind (thinking to Luther), but because they enjoy the fruit of their hard work, they take pride in what they do. I have to say, I am italian, I basically don't like italy and the culture, but I found this extremely true, in all the years I spent in italy working, I always came across hard working people, myself included.