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Customer Review

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tries to be realistic, but is sometimes just cynical, 25 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona (Paperback)
Tim Parks has a habit of writing on subjects I'm fascinated by - Italy, football, education - so it's a bit odd that I tend to find his books hard-going and uninspiring. A Season in Verona seemed to me the work of a man who had no real enthusiasm for football, and Italian Neighbours reads like the diatribe of a bitter foreigner against a Veneto suburb and its inhabitants.

I believe Parks is trying to write an antidote to those travel books that come over all misty-eyed about sunsets in Tuscany, and so on - and I'm all for that. But there's no balance here: the book goes into considerable detail (it is 30-40% overlong) about the numerous petty annoyances of life in Italy, but has very little to say about what makes the Veneto, or its people, interesting. As one reviewer says below, Parks can be quite cruel, and often snobbish, about people who seem to be trying to be friendly towards him - this book is about his friends, but you suspect they're not friends with him now. At the same time, he has almost nothing to say about his wife, which is an odd balance, or lack of it.

Finally, there are a few stylistc quirks that make Parks an occasionally annoying read. He has a thing about starting sentences with verbs, such as 'Starts the author sentences with verbs often in this book', though that's a personal gripe. More importantly, he repeats the same observations time and again, particularly when describing people, so that he reduces them to a caricature. I think it's meant to be funny. So he lives opposite a woman who sweeps her patio with a broom every night? Great, but don't tell me 58 times in 200 pages.

There are some interesting chapters, especially those on cemeteries, bribery and the three types of job in Italy. But ultimately this book is what happens when you aim at realism and hit cynicism instead.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Jul 2013 16:00:18 BDT
Bell Tower says:
Hi, I think your spot on . His latest book is more of the same, in the sense that the preoccupation of Italian trains and net works, and a desire to see the South is obliterated by himself and how he locates himself into Italian life. He seems unhappy that he is perceived as an outsider - still, after all the years he has lived there - and his tone when interacting with various people along the way sometimes comes across as superior. Enjoyed the review.

Posted on 29 Jul 2014 20:33:30 BDT
Lola Brown says:
I completely agree with your review. I simply don't understand the praise and fascination for this author. I am reading his first two books just to get an idea of what modern Italy is really like but I am struggling to get through them. I don't like his writing style and he does repeat himself often. There is no magic in his writing for me at all.
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