Portofino Paperback – 1 Aug 1997
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" 'Eloquently captures the atmosphere of place and period... Schaeffer describes both the pleasures and the occasional torments of childhood with charm and humour...The warmth of characterisation is matched by the novel's rich evocation of Italian life, and the accuracy with which it captures the nuances of 1960s manners' - THE TIMES 'Evocative, funny and wonderfully observed, reading this book is a holiday in itself' - GUARDIAN 'Not since Huck Finn has American literature been graced with a character as irresistible as Calvin Dort Becker' - ANDRES DUBUS III 'Poignant and hilarious...by turns, sentimental, celebratory, evocative and very funny' - LOS ANGELES TIMES 'Beautifully written with great insight and unselfconscious humour' - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
Some kids I met told lies to be special. I told lies to be normal...
It is the early 60s and for young Calvin Becker, the son of embarrassingly over-zealous American missionaries, the family holiday on the Italian Riviera resort of Portofino is the highlight of the year. But even under the seductive influence of a Mediterranean summer, the remaining members of Calvins family seem incapable of ever really relaxing. His fathers always slipping into one of his Bad Moods, his mother will insist on trying to convert the pagans on the beach, while his big sister Janet keeps a ski sweater and a miniature bible in her suitcase because you never knew when the Russians might invade and pack you off to Siberia.
Calvins dad says everything is part of Gods Plan. Well, this particular summer, Calvin has a few plans of his own...plans that involve such exuberantly pagan locals as Gino the whisky-drinking painter, the Bagnino and his boats, the very sensible and very English Bazlintons and above all their very lovely daughter Jennifer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Having been a missionary child myself (although my parents were nothing like Calvin's and from a different flavor of Protestantism) I could relate to many of the situations in the book . Calvin's family lives in a sort of fundamentalist La La land where Catholics are the ultimate evil and must be converted yet free will has no meaning and only the "elect" are saved. They would be a moral superfamily if they lived by their own ideals, but the father has an uncontrollable temper and the mother goes against everything in which she says she believes in the one scene in the book which streatches credulity (I won't give away the details), making the sinners they are trying to convert look like the real saints.
In the end, Calvin shows signs of becoming a normal productive member of society by thinking critically about the things which have been drilled into his head by his family and engaging in harmless but nonetheless forbidden activities which are a normal part of coming of age.
A word of warning: although the book sets boundaries of decency which are never crossed, I'm sure that many fundamentalists would be aghast at its light treatment of a way of thinking which is still prevalent today.
Portofino describes the tensions of being a mishkid beautifully. Not Swiss, not Italian, but not really American, not grown up but not a child, not religious but not worldly, Calvin Becker is more my kind of guy than Holden Caulfield.
Often hilarious, beautifully descriptive and a wry send up of the silly world of the religious.
The author is gifted in his descriptive writing of Italy and his adolescent development rings true but unless I had known some of this family in real life I would not have found it a gripping plot. His mother's agressive evangelism and his father's violence are hard to believe. Calvin Becker is an angry young missionary kid. Frank Schaeffer seems to be still angry even now in his fifties.
In one of my favorite passages, Calvin is describing yet another church split. He describes the topic of the controversy, but can't remember on which side of the conflict they eventually landed. But what was important, he stated, was that "we knew we were right."
I highly recommend this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am really going to praise this book. I could never really get into books that much but this one is the first one that I could really relate to. Read morePublished on 15 Oct. 1999
Portofino is a superb book. The story is excellent and realistic. Portofino reminds me of my own vacations as a child to the South of France. Read morePublished on 5 Oct. 1998
I picked up Frank Schaeffer's Portofino in an airport bookstore as my wife and I took off for a trip to Europe. Read morePublished on 4 Dec. 1996