The Italian Teacher
Rome, 1955The artists are gathering together for a photograph. In one of Rome's historic villas, a party is bright with near-genius, shaded by the socialite patrons of their art. Bear Bavinsky, creator of vast, masculine, meaty canvases, is their god. Larger than life, muscular in both figure and opinion, he blazes at art criticism and burns half his paintings. He is at the centre of the picture. His wife, Natalie, edges out of the shot.From the side of the room watches little Pinch - their son. At five years old he loves Bear almost as much as he fears him. After Bear abandons their family, Pinch will still worship him, striving to live up to the Bavinsky name; while Natalie, a ceramicist, cannot hope to be more than a forgotten muse. Trying to burn brightly under his father's shadow - one of the twentieth century's fiercest and most controversial painters - Pinch's attempts flicker and die. Yet by the end of a career of twists and compromises, Pinch will enact an unexpected rebellion that will leave forever his mark upon the Bear Bavinsky legacy.What makes an artist? In The Italian Teacher, Tom Rachman displays a nuanced understanding of twentieth-century art and its demons, vultures and chimeras. Moreover, in Pinch he achieves a portrait of painful vulnerability and realism: talent made irrelevant by personality. Stripped of egotism, authenticity or genius, Pinch forces us to face the deep held fear of a life lived in vain.

The Italian Teacher Details

TitleThe Italian Teacher
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 20th, 2018
PublisherRiverrun
ISBN-139781786482570
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Italy, Art, Historical, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Novels, European Literature, Italian Literature, Literature

The Italian Teacher Review

  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    I read “The Imperfections”, by Tom Rachman, with my local book club ways back - and wasn’t crazy about it in the same way other members in our group were — I found it dry and dull ...I never wrote review after our group discussion. I just forgot about it. And - then - this week I was given this lovely Advance copy of “The Italian Teacher”. And WOW.... what a completely different experience from the same author.I thoroughly enjoyed this novel - which begins in Rome, 1955.. then 1965...then in Tor I read “The Imperfections”, by Tom Rachman, with my local book club ways back - and wasn’t crazy about it in the same way other members in our group were — I found it dry and dull ...I never wrote review after our group discussion. I just forgot about it. And - then - this week I was given this lovely Advance copy of “The Italian Teacher”. And WOW.... what a completely different experience from the same author.I thoroughly enjoyed this novel - which begins in Rome, 1955.. then 1965...then in Toronto, in 1971...then London...back to Toronto... Pennsylvania in 1976....London in 1981.....1985...1990....1996...1998...2002...2007...2010...2011......2018There are a few things that appealed to me right away. The names of the 3 main characters were each interesting: Bear Bavinsky...Pinch Bavinsky ( his son whose real name is Charles), and Natalie (Natty)... wife and mother of Pinch. Turns out it wasn’t just their names that were interesting: THEY WERE!The other things I liked right off the bat: .......this story had an art theme. .......the savvy and cunning dialogue.This story belongs to Pinch. When we first meet him he’s only five years of age. His dad, Bear, is a great painter and Pinch strives to make himself worthy for his father‘s attention by first trying to be a painter himself, ( I was aching for Pinch in a few scenes when he was young as Bear could be a slimball), then by writing his father‘s biography and then eventually, disillusioned, Pinch takes a job as an Italian teacher in London.When Bear dies, Pinch has a plan- rather an unlikely scheme to assure his father’s legacy. There are other great minor characters - Bear was married 4 times - with several kids from each marriage — so lots of half siblings. Under the humor - much of this story is downright heartbreaking. Yet... the humor really is priceless and the story is as entertaining as can be. Love Tom Rachman’s writing of this novel. Thanks Will! Nice gift!
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    This novel is in many way about art, the art of an eccentric, self centered, overbearing, unfaithful man, a painter appropriately named Bear Bavinsky. It’s about the artist who is famous and yet shuns the critics and the galleries, destroys his work if it is not how he wants it to be .There are certainly some thought provoking questions raised about art and the relationship the artist has with his work, about creativity. For whom is the art created - for the artist, for those who look at it, for This novel is in many way about art, the art of an eccentric, self centered, overbearing, unfaithful man, a painter appropriately named Bear Bavinsky. It’s about the artist who is famous and yet shuns the critics and the galleries, destroys his work if it is not how he wants it to be .There are certainly some thought provoking questions raised about art and the relationship the artist has with his work, about creativity. For whom is the art created - for the artist, for those who look at it, for the rich collector who stows it away or is it to be placed in a museum for the masses ? What is it’s worth - is it monetary or meaning? It’s about the man’s personal life as he moves from place to place from wife to wife abandoning not just the wives but the children along the way, at least five wives and eleven children. Even with this, the heart of the story is his son Pinch (Charles ) Bavinsky. Taking us from Rome to New York to London to Toronto to Pennsylvania to France and back to some of these places again, we follow Pinch from age five in 1955 through 2011, with the novel ending in 2018. Bear, of course looms large in Pinch’s life, as Pinch continually seeks approval from his uninterested father. I saw this as a portrait in loneliness in many ways. Pinch, as a child never had friends and it isn’t until college that he finds a best friend in Marsden. Pinch never seems sure of who he really is or what he should be doing . He’s indelibly connected to art by birth perhaps, or because this is where he needs to be to be close to his father or is he really an artist himself? We experience his failed relationships as he seeks the closeness that has evaded him, ambitions that never seem to come to fruition and these raise questions about what one does with their life, how well lived is it? Pinch does eventually discover who he is and I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers. This is the third novel by Tom Rachman that I have read and enjoyed. He is definitely on my list of authors that I never want to miss. I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverrun through Edelweiss.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Rachman is a marvel. You meet the main character, Pinch, as a child and follow him throughout his life. Pinch’s father, Bear, is a negligent father, drinker and womanizer in addition to being a much admired and successful artist. As Rachman puts it, “But your relatives judge you relatively.” After trying and failing poor Pinch just can’t measure up to his father’s greatness and lives a small life, but he is determined to leave a legacy. How Pinch goes about doing this is brilliant.Filled with wa Rachman is a marvel. You meet the main character, Pinch, as a child and follow him throughout his life. Pinch’s father, Bear, is a negligent father, drinker and womanizer in addition to being a much admired and successful artist. As Rachman puts it, “But your relatives judge you relatively.” After trying and failing poor Pinch just can’t measure up to his father’s greatness and lives a small life, but he is determined to leave a legacy. How Pinch goes about doing this is brilliant.Filled with warmth, humor and the very human frailties that plague us all, The Italian Teacher is a five (very bright) star read for me.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky is just an Italian teacher, though as a boy in Rome in the 1950s–60s he believed he would follow in the footsteps of his sculptor mother and his moderately famous father, Bear Bavinsky, who painted close-ups of body parts. When this dream was shattered, he turned to criticism, getting art history degrees and planning to preserve his father’s reputation by writing his authorized biography. But along the way something went wrong. We follow Pinch through the rest of his lif Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky is just an Italian teacher, though as a boy in Rome in the 1950s–60s he believed he would follow in the footsteps of his sculptor mother and his moderately famous father, Bear Bavinsky, who painted close-ups of body parts. When this dream was shattered, he turned to criticism, getting art history degrees and planning to preserve his father’s reputation by writing his authorized biography. But along the way something went wrong. We follow Pinch through the rest of his life, a sad one of estrangement, loss and misunderstandings – but ultimately there’s a sly triumph in store for the boy who was told that he’d never make it as an artist.Like The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Rachman’s new novel jets between lots of different places – Rome, New York City, Toronto, rural France, London – and ropes in quirky characters in the search for an identity and a place to belong. Although I preferred the early chapters when Pinch is a child – these have some of the free-wheeling energy of The Imperfectionists – this is a rewarding novel about the desperation to please, or perhaps exceed, one’s parents and the legacy of artists in a fickle market. Memorable quotes abound; too many to mention here.Existing Rachman fans will certainly want to read this, but for those who are new to his work I’d particularly recommend this to fans of Daniel Kehlmann’s F and Dominic Smith’s The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. It’s brilliant!The Italian Teacher is destined to be one of my favorite reads of the year.Tom Rachman's character Pinch is the son of a philandering, larger-than-life artist, Bear Bavinsky. Bear is charming and unreliable. Pinch spends his entire life trying to get his dad's attention and approval. He imitates his dad, smoking a pipe early. In a one day lesson Bear teachers Pinch the fundamentals of painting and Pinch dreams of following in his father's footsteps.Bear abandons Pi Review to come. It’s brilliant!The Italian Teacher is destined to be one of my favorite reads of the year.Tom Rachman's character Pinch is the son of a philandering, larger-than-life artist, Bear Bavinsky. Bear is charming and unreliable. Pinch spends his entire life trying to get his dad's attention and approval. He imitates his dad, smoking a pipe early. In a one day lesson Bear teachers Pinch the fundamentals of painting and Pinch dreams of following in his father's footsteps.Bear abandons Pinch and his mother, once his model, for the next model to pose for him; he leaves a sting of women behind him, and seventeen neglected children.Bear routinely destroys any canvas he deems sub par. And he decides to stop selling or showing his art, a plan to drive up the values of his canvases. He becomes a legend, a tantalizing mystery in the art world.Pinch feels a failure, unable to get what he needs from Bear. He flounders through his life, searching for an achievement that would finally elicit real love and approval from his father. His dissertation is on Caravaggio because his father once praised him; his dad doesn't remember doing so. Pinch ends up teaching Italian and foreign languages in London.Not only is he unable to settle on a career, he loses his college girlfriend when she agrees to pose nude for Bear, which drives Pinch crazy: he knows his dad too well. He later marries a woman and again is too possessive and loses her. He finally moves in with a coworker, sharing a house. His college friend Marsden comes in and out of his life, but is always reliable and can be counted on.Too late, Bear corrects Pinch: he never said Pinch was a bad artist, just that he didn't have the personality and selfishness to BE an artist.Pinch's life is sad, miserable, and heartbreaking. So, you ask me, why would you ever want to read this book about a loser? The story has an unexpected turn and a truly comedic endingOf all his children, Bear chooses Pinch to be his confidence man, even leaving his estate and paintings to him. He believes Pinch understands and supports his intention. Pinch hatches a scheme that is the greatest scam of all time, a joke on the whole world of art, a way to keep his seventeen half-siblings happy, and still keep his promise to his dad.And then...another reversal gives Pinch a place in the art world he so desperately desired. The novel left me laughing. It is a brilliant reversal. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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  • Ellen
    January 1, 1970
    I've had Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, on my Want to Read list since it was published to great reviews in 2010, but have neglected it in favor of other books. In two days, I have consumed his latest, The Italian Teacher, and will now move The Imperfectionists to the top of my list.It took awhile for me to get hooked. Rachman's protagonist is Pinch Bavinsky, and we meet him as a child and then follow him through all the phases of his life. He is a hapless but endearing characte I've had Tom Rachman's debut novel, The Imperfectionists, on my Want to Read list since it was published to great reviews in 2010, but have neglected it in favor of other books. In two days, I have consumed his latest, The Italian Teacher, and will now move The Imperfectionists to the top of my list.It took awhile for me to get hooked. Rachman's protagonist is Pinch Bavinsky, and we meet him as a child and then follow him through all the phases of his life. He is a hapless but endearing character from the start--one of many children fathered by an acclaimed painter who is self-centered, charismatic, and neglectful. We are privy to a lifetime of Pinch's painful romances, academic and career struggles, aimlessness, self-loathing and incessant desire to please his elusive and narcissistic father, and yet somehow along the way, Rachman also gives us humorous, compassionate insight into human nature in all its beauty and folly. Set in Rome, Toronto, London and Pennsylvania, we get to soak up the flavors of The Italian Teacher's assorted locations, all the while learning intricate details of the art world. The novel's conclusion is quietly joyful and transcendent, and supremely satisfying. Highly recommend this read!
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  • Michael Holt
    January 1, 1970
    It’s a wonderful book! The very beginning is a bit of a slog, but after that, it is a real page turner. It is somewhat depressing as you go through Pinch’s life, but always insightful, and even informative. And the ending is life-affirming. Highly recommended.
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    review soon
  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    5 stars isn't enough - this story is as immersive as it is compelling. Following Pinch on his life's path leads you down hard roads that are as familiar as they are pervasive, illustrating one's control, and how others choices control your life. Tom Rachman craftily creates a Byron-like father, with whom Charles is tied to. The story of Pitch's life, is truly the story of their lives ~ obsessive, passive, cultivated stories that showcase a life, all with literary flare. Stunning storytelling!
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  • Jayne
    January 1, 1970
    Received this ARC from Westwinds Bookshop, Duxbury, MAA very enjoyable read. I was channeling Hemingway as Bear Bavinsky. Interesting take on the art world and its pretensions, prestige, connections and lack thereof.Familial relationships and the irreversible damage/ hurt we can inflict on each other.This book should sell well
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    I was given this book as a Christmas gift and eager to read it.it is set in 1950`s and 1960`s starts in Rome ,Italy.I grew up there in that era and i thought it was portrayed very well ,i was a teenager then and Roma was in the Dolce Vita era ,a gorgeous era when the city was at the height of movie making the Fellini era and the Sophia Loren era. Also the city attracted many artists and writers and poets. The story of the artist in this novel is familiar, the larger than life character the mad d I was given this book as a Christmas gift and eager to read it.it is set in 1950`s and 1960`s starts in Rome ,Italy.I grew up there in that era and i thought it was portrayed very well ,i was a teenager then and Roma was in the Dolce Vita era ,a gorgeous era when the city was at the height of movie making the Fellini era and the Sophia Loren era. Also the city attracted many artists and writers and poets. The story of the artist in this novel is familiar, the larger than life character the mad drinking and women ,partying all in the setting of the Eternal City by the Tiber River . Then he shows the intense and fierce art world , the lies, the adoration , the huge money involved. I thought it was very captivating and love reading about a place i loved and knew so well.Being a painter myself and swimming in the rough seas of sales and promotion and disappointments i found it all very intriguing.well done bravissimo.
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  • Gwen Warren
    January 1, 1970
    Having been a huge fan of Rachman's first book, The Imperfectionists, I was disappointed in this second novel. The characters were less pleasant, less believable, and really less interesting. The father, an artist supposedly, bordered on caricature at times. The mental health issues were kept vague and less than helpfully portrayed.A recent editorial by Rachman in the Globe and Mail on Brexit and the situation in the UK was a much more useful bit of reading.
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  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
  • Paula
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Goodreads and Penguin Random House Canada for a free copy of this book. The Italian Teacher is beautifully written, humorous at times and gut wrenching at others. This character-driven novel tells the story of Pinch Bavinsky, the son of two artists, Bear (a famous painter) and Natalie (a struggling ceramicist) and his lifelong struggle to earn his father’s approval. I found myself becoming so drawn into the story and engaged with Pinch’s character that I gasped out loud at one point an Thanks to Goodreads and Penguin Random House Canada for a free copy of this book. The Italian Teacher is beautifully written, humorous at times and gut wrenching at others. This character-driven novel tells the story of Pinch Bavinsky, the son of two artists, Bear (a famous painter) and Natalie (a struggling ceramicist) and his lifelong struggle to earn his father’s approval. I found myself becoming so drawn into the story and engaged with Pinch’s character that I gasped out loud at one point and found myself in tears at others. This novel had such an impact on me that I will be thinking about it for a long time.
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    I just absolutely love how Tom Rachman writes. He pulls me in & won’t let me go. This story is about Pinch, the son of a successful painter and a failed potter. Pinch himself falls somewhere in between, never really being successful & never really failing. The story that follows is Pinch’s life as he tries to prove to his father that he is successful. It can be heartwrenching at times, but it’s also funny and heart warming. Really great literature here.
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  • Bobbi
    January 1, 1970
    An absorbing tale about an artist (Bear), his son (Pinch), Bear's various wives and children (minor characters), with fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses into the art world. At times amusing, but often heartbreaking because of the son's desperate attempts to win his father's approval, the soul of the novel is Pinch's story which begins when he's five, and follows him over several decades.My thanks to the author, Andrea Schulz, and Viking for the ARC. The book will be available on March 20, 20 An absorbing tale about an artist (Bear), his son (Pinch), Bear's various wives and children (minor characters), with fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses into the art world. At times amusing, but often heartbreaking because of the son's desperate attempts to win his father's approval, the soul of the novel is Pinch's story which begins when he's five, and follows him over several decades.My thanks to the author, Andrea Schulz, and Viking for the ARC. The book will be available on March 20, 2018.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I love Rachman’s writing—it is smart and carefully considered but not at all overwrought, so it reads like the wind. He has created some very vivid characters in this novel and the clever turns of phrase that I’m still quoting from “The Imperfectionists” are nicely on display here as well. I intend to use “anecdotage” to describe the state of the long-winded aged for evermore.
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  • Robin
    January 1, 1970
    I love reading novels with an art theme and this was a great one. A great book for book club discussions. A great story that towards the end you can't foresee where it's going. A great writer a great story!
  • Briana
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book and I absolutely loved it! I love books where I can really imagine each character...hear them, see them....etc. Tom Rachman paints such a beautiful picture of all his characters (no pun intended) Even having no background or interest in art... couldn't put it down.
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  • Alice
    January 1, 1970
    Giveaway winner...Thank you.
  • D. C.
    January 1, 1970
    Delightful. Review to come.
  • Jamie Jones Hullinger
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. I must ponder.
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