Monday, April 6, 2020

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

I received an advanced uncorrected paperback proof copy of The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman through the Goodreads Giveaway program. 

Below is my honest, unbiased review of The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman.

I first began reading The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman in June of 2019, but kept putting put off finishing it for other books until this year. My initial beef with this novel was I couldn't stand the secondary character of Bear Bavinsky. Bear Bavinsky is an artist on the level of one of the great masters and he is a major narcissist/jerk! Bear Bavinsky is a womanizer and is married several times throughout this novel. We learn by the end of the novel that Bear has a total of 17 children by several different women. He isn't a good husband or father for that matter as everything always revolves around him.

The main character for The Italian Teacher is Charles 'Pinch' Bavinsky. Pinch (Charles's nickname) is Bear Bavinsky's son. The novel is primarily about Pinch's life from early boyhood in the 1950s until his death in 2010. The Italian Teacher is told mainly from Pinch's point of view. Pinch stands in the shadow of his father's greatness trying to make something of his own life. Pinch's parents divorce early on in the novel. Additionally, Pinch's mom, Natalie, is a minor artist (potter) in her own right, but she comes across as scatterbrained and worn down trying to raise her son on her own. Pinch continually tries to garner his father's love, attention, and approval throughout much of his life to no avail as Bear rebuffs any attempts at closeness or to even show any kind of genuine fatherly love/affection. Bear remains distant and aloof, never giving much praise or attention to Pinch or any of his children that I can tell. 

Interestingly enough though, Pinch becomes his father's favorite child as Pinch appears to be the only one of Bear Bavinsky's children to have direct access to their father in Bear's later years. Additionally, Pinch is the only child to inherit anything from their father's estate upon Bear Bavinsky's sudden death. This sets Pinch at odds with his half siblings. Essentially, Pinch becomes his dad's favorite child because he kowtows to his father's whims.

Tom Rachman is a good writer. There are lots of unexpected twists and turns in The Italian Teacher, especially the last half of the novel. Pinch may never have become the person he expected/wanted to become, but he does become successful in his own unexpected way by the end of the novel.

P. S. I love the colorful cover art for The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman.

The following is a plot summary for The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman from Amazon:
A masterful novel about the son of a great painter striving to create his own legacy, by the bestselling author of The Imperfectionists.
Conceived while his father, Bear, cavorted around Rome in the 1950s, Pinch learns quickly that Bear's genius trumps all. After Bear abandons his family, Pinch strives to make himself worthy of his father's attention--first trying to be a painter himself; then resolving to write his father's biography; eventually settling, disillusioned, into a job as an Italian teacher in London. But when Bear dies, Pinch hatches a scheme to secure his father's legacy--and make his own mark on the world.

With his signature humanity and humor, Tom Rachman examines a life lived in the shadow of greatness, cementing his place among his generation's most exciting literary voices
I'm so glad that I finally finished reading this novel, even if I was initially put off by Bear Bavinsky's personality and Pinch's wimpiness. I am giving The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5 star.

Until my next post, happy reading!!


  1. Your description of Bear Bavinsky sounds very much like another famous person in the current news. The children of famous people have a lot of expectations put upon them. I suppose it is not an easy life, so one can summon a bit of sympathy for someone like Pinch.

    1. Much sympathy for Pinch indeed as he lives in the shadow of great artistic talent.

      I found it interesting that one of the points made in this novel was how much leeway can we give to an artistic master for outlandish behavior? It seems like much of a great artist's bad behavior is forgiven or is acceptable or excusable because this person is a talented genius verses calling them out on their bad behavior.

  2. I am glad to have your review of this one. I wasn't sure about it. Now, I may read it.

    1. I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would.Thank you for stopping by and leaving me a comment. Happy reading!!