Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Listen in Prime Shop now Learn more

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars45
4.5 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

I bought this on the basis of the title and Kindle sample which both seemed to indicate that the focus of this book was indeed the language of Italy with its abundant quirks and curious history as a relatively recent national tongue.

That is part of what this book does, and I enjoyed that aspect of it and the fairly cosy and anecdotal approach of the author. Clearly, the chapter about literature is relevant to the development of the language and she gives broad brush accounts of Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and others. My disappointment began to develop round about chapter 5 when the book morphs into a fairly superficial history of aspects of Italian culture, the very things I know a bit about and which have spurred me on to learn the language. The art history chapter, for example, strikes me as more than a little too stereotypically from the 'Renaissance art means Italian art' angle: Vasari is the guide (Vasari is very interesting and important!) but he is a hugely partisan figure who mythologises almost as much as he reveals in his desire to place Italy, and more particularly Tuscany, at the centre of all good things. For me that mythologising is at least as interesting as the myths, but she makes no reference to that, which is a pity as that impulse is relevant to a book on Italian cultural history. And the focus on language is lost.

Other chapters explore food, music, love and other rather sentimental aspects of the country's 'persona', and I felt just a little shortchanged as the book increasingly fails to live up to its title. I, personally, found these chapters less and less interesting as I her judgements became more sentimental and superficial: I raced through the last couple of chapters because it was beginning to be tiresome. I'm sure it will be perfect for lots of people approaching it with different expectations and interests (the ratings so far illustrate that and I don't argue with the judgements expressed). Not a terrible or boring book by any stretch of the imagination, (to be fair, the writer gives much interesting information for those new to Italian culture) but from my perspective, just a little disappointing: I wanted more on the language!
3.5* really, but rounded down to 3 to offer a contrast to the more positive reviews.

(I would have to recommend 'The New Italians' by Charles Richards, and Tobias Jones 'The Dark Heart of Italy', each of which takes a less saccharine, and in my view far more interesting, view of this endlessly fascinating culture. The latter is the more up to date and acerbic.)
0Comment|54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 February 2012
First, skip this if you're looking for an academic text or an encyclopaedic survey: the author is a journalist who is writing for amateurs (in both the English and the Italian sense of that word), and she has produced a book of manageable length (290 pages of text) that her target audience will enjoy.

As regards the language of Italy, I appreciated the frequent reminders of the importance of dialect in Italian culture; and her explanation of the emergence of the Tuscan dialect as "italiano standard" - see, for instance, her account of Manzoni's rewriting of "I promessi sposi" and the background to the familiar quote that he "rinsed his rags in the Arno". The general principle - that the language of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio eventually acquired pre-eminence, confirmed in the cultural field by Manzoni and eventually in the political field by Mussolini - is familiar, but not always presented with the wealth of examples that you will read here.

As regards Italian literature and culture generally, I enjoyed the anecdotal approach: how much more interesting does Leonardo Da Vinci appear when you discover that not only did he paint the Mona Lisa, invent the aeroplane, etc. etc., but he also wrote a short note on "why dogs sniff each others' bottoms"! (I have to say that, when I read this, my first thought was that some Italian friend of the author had been pulling her leg; but not so - it's true!)

What you get is the author's individual perspective on her subject matter, clearly derived from considerable knowledge of Italian language and culture, not just the pre-digested opinions of others, and supported by interesting, usually unfamiliar, details. How interesting, for example, was the life story of Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's librettist, who eventually became America's first university professor of Italian.

Only one word of warning for English readers: the author writes in a prose style familiar from American magazines and this occasionally grates on the English ear; but don't blame the author for that.
0Comment|20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The problem with this book is that the title raises exactly the wrong expectations. I mean, if you are writing about how much you like Italy, then it is unwise explicitly to draw attention to the language, since that gives the reader every right to think she will read about just that, and reasonably too. Not so in fact, which is my beef: it is a book about la dolce vita alright, but not really about the language at any but the superficial level. This is an obvious missed opportunity as any reader of, say, Michaelangelo's poems knows what a mellifluous, beautiful language Italian is, as well as its links to all Romance languages; thus this is actually a HUGE and fascinating subject. As an account of enjoying life in Italy this has its charms, but it is actually quite run-of-the-mill and Hales is not exactly what one could call a stylist. Too many clichés here and not much on the tongue; an opportunity missed and NOT what it said on the tin (a little British joke there, sports fans). If you want to learn about Italy, Tim Parks knows more, is more intelligent and is a better writer; for depth or a hint of the life in Italy, even of the important 'Years of Lead' - try Tobias Jones. This one is for the coffee table or the tourist only.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 24 February 2011
This is a truly wonderful book for anyone who loves Italy and all things Italian!

I can hardly believe that there is only one other review so far for this fabulous work.

I bought my copy as a Kindle download, but I sent a hard copy to a friend (we are both learning Italian, although that's not a prerequisite by any means).

Hales takes you on a journey of discovery of `all' things Italian via the birth and development of the language itself, visiting Dante, The Divine Comedy, Complete, Illustrated
Michelangelo, Machiavelli, The Prince and Fellini - I mention a handful only, because her text is teeming with history and modernity, and is beautifully written with passion, head and heart. The book is subtitled `My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language' - the author proves the latter many times during her journey of discovery. `Penso che fosse bellissima'
0Comment|8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 September 2010
Praise from the first word, if you have a love of Italy and or the Italian language whether you are able to speak it or not, this book is definitely not just a must read but a title destined for your private collection.

I have owned a copy of this book since the end of last year and I have enjoyed dipping into it frequently. I have not until now though read it in depth enough so that I felt able to write a review.

Dianne Hales is an American journalist and published author. She wrote this book as a result or because, in her own words she never expected to fall ` madly, gladly, giddily in love with the world's most luscious language.' but fall she did head over heels. For over twenty years now Italian has become her way of immersing herself into Italy's culture, history, lifestyle and traditions. She shares this love with us in such an engaging manner you will be captivated.

Just take a peep at this list of Chapter headings.
Introduction: My Italian Brain and How It Grew
1. Confessions of an Innamorata
2. The Unlikely Rise of a Vulgar Tongue
3. To Hell and Back with Dante Alighieri
4. Italian's Literary Lions
5. The Baking of a Masterpiece
6. How Italian Civilized the West
7. La Storia dell'ArteA
8. On Golden Wings
9. Eating Italian
10. So Many Ways to Say "I Love You"
11. Marcello and Me
11. Irreverent Italian
12. Mother Tongue

I hope that just reading that list will have tempted you enough, it is the story of how the Italian language came into existence using art, history, music, literature, cooking, films and last but not least amore or love to teach us. It will not matter if you do not know or understand a word of Italian, a love of Italy and all things Italian is all you need. Or maybe if you do not already have that love reading this will will convert you. Learning Italian or want to learn then this is also the book for you as it takes you way beyond vocabulary and all that complicated Italian grammar. As a traveller to Italy whether in reality or virtually, it will also make a great introduction to the places and the people.

What more can I say really but to recommend highly that you get hold of a copy to dip into yourself. As once you have done that you will definitely I think want a copy on your own bookshelves whether you are a novice or an expert on all things Italian.
22 comments|23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 March 2012
I recently started to learn the Italian language and wanted to know more about the Italian language and culture. This book gives you a valuable insight in to the language and culture of Italy, talking about the people that moulded the language from a bunch of dialects in to the standardised Italian that is spoken today. You can also pick up some useful 'parolacce' !!!
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 October 2012
I purchased this book as a new student of Italian language and I am now smitten with everything Italian and eager to learn more.
Dianne Hale's book left me chuckling away to myself as I read her anecdotes about her early experiences with the Italian language and Italian men.
The book covers everything from the origins of the language, Italian Art, Italian Cooking, Italian Literature, Dante and a few essential 'parolaccia', [dirty words], thrown in for good measure.
La Bella Lingua is an essential read for anyone even mildly interested in Italian culture and has certainly inspired me to continue my studies.
A superbly written book in every way imaginable.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 26 December 2012
This is an amazing book that provides a real insight into Italian history, culture and so much more. I have learned so much from Dianne Hales passion for everything Italian. I'm studying Italian myself and this has developed my understanding of art, history, love of food, traditions, music and of course l'amore. The last chapter includes 'interesting ' vocabulary! It has made me laugh, smile, almost cry and of course further deepened mia passione a tutto d'italiano. Anna
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 February 2016
As a middle- aged Englishman struggling to learn Italian and keen to know more about Italy and its language, I have bought several books about life and living in Italy. Most of these have been disappointing, largely because of their inexpert, amateurish writing style. In contrast therefore, it was a pleasure to come across Dianne Hales’s informative and very readable ‘La Bella Lingua’.

Every chapter is interesting and well researched as evidenced by the extensive bibliography but just as importantly, the author has made the effort to seek out distinguished academics and other experts in their fields of study. This results in her giving an informed but broad overview of the topics which invites further investigation if you so wish.

But this is no dusty text book; the author’s obvious journalistic skill means that the information is delivered in an approachable and witty manner which kept me turning the pages and taking notes (particularly the idioms) to add to my own understanding of the language.

A very well considered piece of writing to which I shall return frequently.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
In many ways La Bella Lingua is a delight and the opening chapters really had me hooked, Dianne Hales’ enthusiasm made me want to start leaning Italian immediately.

I found it to be quirky and curious, informative and passionate and seems to sum up my own expectations of what learning the Italian language might be like and how important it is to understanding all things Italian.

So I took many new facts and opinions away with me and would recommend it if you have any interest at all in all things Italian. The language is fascinating, the food is delicious and as a holiday destination it is almost unrivalled, so do go armed with the information and love Dianne Hales imbues in this book.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)