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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 February 2011
What did I learn from this book? Italians dress well, their television is awful, their politicians are dishonest, and they have a problem with terrorism and organised crime. Dog bites man. A 288-page rant that is occasionally entertaining, but mostly superficial. By his own admission, Jones' book is contains 'all sorts of faults', and the revised postscript is a lame effort to update the book on events since 2003.
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on 12 February 2003
I bought this book on the strength of a number of rather enthusiastic reviews in newspapers with big pages. I suppose Mr Jones called in a few favours (who wouldn't?), however, I do think he has written a good book, rather than the fascinating one I was expecting. I learned a lot about Italian politics from this book - interesting stuff about the political split(s) within the country, although some sections contained too much detail and left me confused. In fairness, I guess this is part of the point which the author is making. The essays on the rise and rise of Berlusconi were the best parts of the book for me and reminded me of a lovely moment in an Italian cafe last year when the proprietor leaned across to show me a headline in the newspaper which read 'Berlusconi compares Saddam to Hitler' - "He should know" she said. The bits about daily Italian life and football are also interesting and funny, although there is that certain giddiness which appears to affect travel writers and teenagers who have just left home for the first time - oh it's all so much better here! Perhaps my being of Irish Catholic descent meant I didn't find the 'unique' style of Italian Catholicism all that exotic or strange (check out the websites in Ireland dedicated to obituaries)although I accept the graveyards are more stylish (along with the food). All in all worth a read but you might find it irritating in parts.
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on 14 July 2008
This book is a collection of second-hand stereotypes about Italy and Italians. I watched the author on a TV program struggling to put a few words together in Italian and asked myself how he could have gathered any insighgts on the Italian political/sociological situation with such a poor knowledge of the local language. Overall: a surprisingly shallow book and a serious source of embarassement for British journalism.
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on 12 June 2011
After reading this book it seems that Italy almost isn't a country all - just larger or smaller interests trying to grab what they can in the context of a failed legal system. It seems to be inefficient, unfair, mostly non violent, family orientated and full of fantasy, resignation and good humour. Weird place.
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on 29 June 2003
I'm English and currently living in Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone with an interest in Italy or the EU. "The Dark Heart of Italy" appears to be the product of a great deal of sweat and tears. It reads well, chapters alternating and overlapping between the "umbra" and "penumbra", an analysis of Italy's political affairs (such as terrorism and the magistrature) and a critic of popular subject matter (such as Italian football, landscape, media) There are regular doses of narrative based on Jones' personal experiences in Italy as well as indicative observations on mores and language (such as the origin of the word "ciao") I couldn't put this book down, apart from when quickly flicking through my pocket English dictionary thanks to Jones' at times rather "highbrow" language. I gobbled up "The Dark Heart of Italy", the first English book I've read on contemporary Italy, in a couple of sittings. For me, it certainly clarified elements of Italy's obscure political history and expressed the difficulties and frustrations of living here (as well as serving as a reminder of the very many uniquely good things) As soon as I had finished Jones' book, I began reading commentaries by Italian journalists with renewed enthusiasm, having been invigorated by this excellent and enjoyable book! Well done, Zio Tobia.
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on 7 July 2003
I think he really got it. I am Italian but I've been living in UK for five years. Everytime I go back to Italy I experience the same things described in the book. It is amazing how Tobia Jones has captured the essence of Italy. It's like if Italy was looking at herself in the mirror...
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on 26 February 2015
Arrived on time and was as described. I've only read a little bit, but will get around to it soon.
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on 23 October 2015
There's a good deal of bold truth in this account but also some exaggeration and inaccuracy.
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on 28 April 2012
I do not think the author has lived long enough in Italy to qualify as an arbiter of what is good and not in Italy.

A lot of what he says is true about corruption, etc., but has has not taken into account that Italy is really not a 'country' in the accepted sense of the word, still being a cobbled together conglomeration of disparate regions, not far different from Garibaldi's time - there is a vast difference in outlook, character and, indeed langauge from North to South, particularly around Naples and Sicily with their particular difficulties with the Mafia and Cammora and this, to my mind, makes it very difficult to lump all of Italy together.

There are some great undertakings there, particularly in the way that many of the Roman antiquarian sites are looked after and administered. The 'ordinary' people, on the whole are just that. I personally know Italy well and, of course, it is like anywhere else, with good and bad traits, useless politicians, tax dodgers, etc., etc., but if it is so bad, how exactly does it manage to function at all?

Read the book and judge for yourself.
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on 2 September 2011
Book turned up quickly and well packaged. Unless you are bothered about a small mark here and there and the fact that the book has clearly been read before then there is nothing to worry about....there were no missing pages nor underlining nor comments scribbled in the margin etc. Altogether a great bargain for 0.01p.
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