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on 9 September 2003
Barzini was amongst the most talented journalists of 50's/60's Italy. Here he tries to explain the often frustrating enigma that are his countrymen to a foreign audience.
This book is probably best compared to Jeremy Paxman's "The English..", but is far better researched and far more suitable as a foundation for further casual study. Lest this put the reader off, at the same time he writes in an amusing and engaging style.
If the book is at times aged - writing as he does before the social revolution had really hit Italy - at the same time it provides a fascinating glimpse of Italy's past which is vital to understanding it's future.
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on 22 May 1998
Barzini combines scholarship and humor to enhance our understanding of the ethnic/cultural group that has produced some of the world's great writers, thinkers, industrialists, scientists and artists, aka the saints and sinners. His subject matter is matched only by his writing in terms of complexity and style. Barzini is both mirror and artist, he provides images that are both as accurate as one can hope to experience and distorted by his love of his subject. In the end, I was greatly entertained and educated. An immensely enjoyable read.
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on 22 February 1998
Much has been written on Italians, but nobody to the best of my knowledge has ever taken an historical scholar examination of the process combined with a very good sense of humor. I must say that in the book I have fully discovered and learnt all my people's negative and positive sides. This has been done with a lot of "wit" and humor.
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on 19 August 2013
But it's been very insightful. The book is written in a very entertaining way and makes references to lots of other famous people and places. I'm not completely new to the Italian way of life but I'm moving there in a couple of weeks and this book it getting me right up to speed - love it!
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on 16 January 2014
I read this book twice with 10 years in between and found it again unputdownable. Written with humour, wisdom about human nature, and love for Italy, it stands the passage of time. For a newer related book, read "Good Italy, Bad Italy" by Bill Emmott.
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on 14 April 2016
Simply the best biography of a nation and its people ever written. If you already loved Italy and the Italians, you'll appreciate the country and its people even more after reading Barzini's wonderful book.
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on 2 March 1999
I enjoyed the book, The Italians. Eventhough Barzini was a newspaper journalist, it seems he was in the business of writing about the social sciences. While reading this book, it dawned on me that many of Barzini's theories and precepts are nothing more than ideas. Of course, Barzini was Italian and I am sure many of his conclusions are accurate. However, some of this book has to be taken with a "grain of salt". Barzini, educated at Columbia University, has a witty and thorough style of writing. He makes this book very easy to read and enjoyable. I recommend this book to anyone looking to understand the makeup of the Italian people. It's important to keep one thing in mind before reading this book, it was not written by a sociologist - but by a journalist.
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on 8 December 1998
A book about Italians or about one's prejudices about Italians? In the tradition of Victorian visitors to Italy, whose books say more about the authors' prejudices than about the topics at hand, Barzini's account tells us about his own, middle class Italian, prejudices toward the rest of the country. He has more information available, of course, than a foreigner can ever have, but his account is basically anecdotal at best, and often forces the facts he does report to fit his preconceived points of view. When he writes about the southern problem, for instance, he has to disregard many of the facts he himself includes (and the many more he doesn't include, of course) to conclude, appallingly, that it is all a 'mentality' problem. In conclusion, it can be an interesting reading for people already very familiar with Italy and Italians, as they will be able to spot the many inconsistencies, while at the same time enjoying the anecdotes, some of them pretty entertaining. If you know nothing about Italy, this is a very misleading, personal, and somewhat prejudiced view of Italy on the whole, which will not help you to know better nor Italy nor her people.
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on 18 August 2014
Not quite what I expected. There is more history in the book than description of Italians. I bought as a gift and hoped it would be witty, sharp and also funny.
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on 18 December 2016
A bit dated but still very revealing about Italian culture and Italians . He can be rather long-winded at times though.
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