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The Italian Teacher

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  6,370 ratings  ·  830 reviews
A sparkling, propulsive new novel from the bestselling author of The Imperfectionists.

Rome, 1955. The artists gather for a picture at a party in an ancient villa. Bear Bavinsky, creator of vast canvases, larger than life, 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
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published February 20th 2018 by Riverrun
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Christine I think Marsden remembered that conversation and that Bear also admitted that Pinch had talent but he couldn't ever go to his son's art shows... that …moreI think Marsden remembered that conversation and that Bear also admitted that Pinch had talent but he couldn't ever go to his son's art shows... that is when Bear said "YOU work for ME". I think he felt great empathy for Pinch. And maybe it hit Marsden that, wow... it is actually Pinch who has his work displayed in the finest museums and galleries.(less)
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Amy Hi Fay
I don’t believe the book is online free but you can either buy it for kindle or get it free from library. …more
Hi Fay
I don’t believe the book is online free but you can either buy it for kindle or get it free from library. (less)

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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  6,370 ratings  ·  830 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Angela M
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italians, artists
”How amazing my mother and father were! All those years, all their bullying doubts, all in the paltry hope that strangers might someday stand before their work and look, probably no longer than a few seconds. That’s all they were fighting for.

What driven lives!”

Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky is the Roman spawn of a Canadian sculptor and a celebrated American artist. Bear Bavinsky achieved his reputation in the 1950s by painting body parts, never faces. His canvases are masculine and virile to match hi
An underlying premise of this novel is that personality is just as important as talent in achieving fame. TV perhaps bears this theory out. Pinch, the novel's main protagonist has very little personality. He's completely overshadowed by his artist father, Bear Bavinsky. Bear conforms to just about every popular cliché of the artist - an egotistical womaniser who uses his fidelity to his art as a means of blundering through life like a self-indulgent child without restraints. (I was almost ashame ...more
Theresa Alan
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
“The moneyed all speak of art, the artists all speak of money.”

This is an unusual novel. Usually, the protagonist has a goal and has to overcome obstacles to achieve that goal. In this book, none of main characters are admirable. Bear Bavinsky is a celebrated artist when the story begins in 1955, but he treats the endless stream of women in his life like crap and ignores the seventeen children he has with wives and girlfriends and mistresses because he’s such an important artist he can’t be bot
” Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone”

Piano Man Songwriter: Billy Joel

There’s quite a bit of traveling about the world in this story from Rome to London, Toronto, New York, France, and Pennsylvania. There’s also a bit of traveling through time, as this begins in 1955, with stops along the way, and ending in 2018. There’s another journey, as well: to the world of Art, artists, and the journey to become a known, accomplished artist.

And a w
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
4.5 gloriously written stars

Being a parent is a hard job, perhaps the hardest one out there. It requires one to be there always for another person, a guide, a mentor, a friend, a person whose love is never questioned. For Charles, also known as Pinch, the lack of his father's attention plays havoc with this young boy's life. Pinch is a shy boy, loved by his mother, Natalie, but forever seeking the attention and approval of his artist father, Bear Bavinsky.

Bear is a bigger than life artist, husb
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it

Rachman presents a winning tale of a larger-than-life painter who schmoozes and blusters his way through the art scene, while his wife and son attempt to thrive in his shadow. Though none of the characters is particularly likable, they are all fascinating. Bear, the artist, oozes animal magnetism, and is hypercritical of his work: he burns the majority of the canvases he creates. Natalie, his much younger wife, is a ceramicist, though her artwork never takes off, and she resents being seen as ju
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Bear Bavinsky is an acclaimed American artist living in Rome in 1955 with his young Canadian wife Natalie and their little boy Charles, nicknamed Pinch. Bear is a huge man in both body and personality who is totally focused on his work: "My real life, it's when I'm working. It's entirely there. The rest--everything--is flimflam. And that's tragedy."

Bear is a perfectionist who burns any painting that displeases him. His vision for his art is that it should hang in museums where many people can ad
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"'Because there's no malice in Dad. He's just that way. Like a huge ship, powering forward on his mission, and nobody can stop it.'

'I see,' Natalie notes, 'that you're still very engaged with Bear.'

He looks to the restaurant clock, irritated. Nobody likes to be understood without warning."

My goodness, was The Italian Teacher ever my kind of book. I didn't love it from the very first page - admittedly with a book about characters called Bear and Pinch I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to l
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was a fairly excruciating read for me and perhaps I would have been better to DNF this after 50 pages as was my instinct, however since I was reading this for book club I was determined to finish it, maybe there would be some payoff in the ending ?. ( Urmmm no, not really )

One of my problems here was the writing style, the first 100 pages or more were inadvertently humorous, clunky word choices, overblown dialogue, characters either very dull (Pinch) or over the top caricatures. Case in poi
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I've read and loved two books by this author and I was disappointed to find that I didn't love this one. I didn't hate it, but it was just ok for me. Bear Bavinsky was a larger than life painter who, for a while, was quite popular. He was also an irresponsible narcissist who had countless wives and girlfriends and 17 children. Bear's appeal to these women (other than his fame) was never made clear to me. The protagonist of this book is his son Pinch (Charles) who was the only child with whom Bea ...more
Ron Charles
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The Italian Teacher” confirms Rachman’s reputation as a shepherd of lost souls. It tells the story of Pinch, a man whose whole life is overshadowed by his father, the great 20th-century artist Bear Bavinsky. Bear is a fictional character, but Rachman takes scissors and paste to the museum catalogue just as Rachel Kushner did in her wonderful 2013 novel, “The Flamethrowers.” He paints Bear so cleverly into the canon of contemporary art that you may feel like you must have seen one of his still-l ...more
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the writing in The Italian Teacher, and appreciated Pinch as a detailed and authentically flawed character, but I couldn’t seem to engage with the story until about the last third of the book.

Nearly his entire life Pinch has pursued approval from the one person who is too self-important to ever grant it -- his father, artist Bear Bavinsky. Though Pinch is ten times the person Bear is, he lives in obscurity, kept there in large part by the man he admires most.

Nonetheless, what Pinch u
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: canada, 2018-read
Parts of this book are rather placative, some lack logical stringency, and it's generally too long - but I can't deny that I enjoyed reading it, and that it contains many smart thoughts on the dynamics of art and fame. Our protagonist Charles is the son of infamous painter Bear Bavinsky and his third wife, and in this novel, we are following him through his whole life (and even beyond that). "Pinch", as he is called by his family, adores his father and tries everything to impress him, but Bear i ...more
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 ...more
I can see that many will enjoy this novel, but it did not fit me. I will explain why in the hope that you may determine if perhaps it will fit you.

We follow the lives of Bear Bavinsky, an artist, and Charles Bavinsky, his son. Charles is born in 1950 and we follow him from his childhood in Rome through to his death in 2011. His father dies a decade earlier. Loose ends are tied up and the book concludes with a retrospective of Bear’s artwork at Tate Gallery in 2018. Along the way readers visit R
This is a warm-hearted tale of a son trying his whole life to make his relationship with his father work towards a healthy balance for his own identity. In addition to insights about the psychology of fathers and sons, the story told provides a great window on the interplay between authentic creativity in art and its corruption by the incestuous enterprises of marketing, journalism, and academic study.

Charles (“Pinch”) grows up in Rome in the 50s and 60s with his loving mother Natalie, who is a
Julie Christine
May 18, 2018 marked it as dnf
This is one of those "life is too short" moments in deciding to give this book a pass. I'm choosing not to spend time with narcissistic men, either in print or in real life. Thanks, but no. ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
While this certainly fits the classification and form of a novel, it feels an awful lot like a film screenplay in book form. With so many characters painted using broad brushstrokes, and a steady flow of scenes that are saturated in visual imagery, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Rachman wrote this with thoughts of a movie deal in the back of his mind. And more power to him because this could make a very good flick.

I'm glad I stuck with it but must confess to having been a bit hot-and-cold
Katie Long
A good story and a nice, light read, but I’m afraid I didn’t find it to be much more than that. Everything about it seemed only skin deep. From the plot to the characterization there was so much more to develop and explore that it feels like a missed opportunity. #TOB2019
A breezy, undemanding read, The Italian Teacher is not fluffy enough to qualify as pure escapist fun, but it's still kind of light and inconsequential. For me this would have been better if it had devoted more time to the side characters rather than the ineffectual and bland protagonist Pinch, whose life story this is.

The book says a few clever things about the art world, but I didn’t feel like they were particularly original insights and overall, Rachman’s position seems to be a wholly cynical
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky has found it impossible to find his way out of his father’s shadow. Lost in its darkness his entire life. The Italian Teacher is basically his life story. His father, Bear Bavinsky, is a famous painter of still life who shuns celebrity and yet paradoxically is an extrovert, gregarious and charming once starting up a conversation. A perfectionist who burns the paintings that do not reach his impossibly high standards, and lives by the philosophy of art for art’s sake. Thi ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
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 mod
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I feel duty bound to start this review with the caveat that from the start it was clear that this was not a book for me. I won't dwell too long on my lengthy list of misgivings with this novel, suffice to say I found the characters both insufferable and flat (with the exception of a couple of neglected but complex minor players), and ultimately I couldn't bring myself to care about anything that was happening. Rachman saved himself from one star territory by touching on some interesting ideas ab ...more
Mar 28, 2018 marked it as to-read
this cover left me breathless when I saw it in the store today can't wait until I have time so I can read this beauty ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
[4+] The Italian Teacher is a thought-provoking novel about a son's relationship with his self-centered artist father, Bear Bavinsky. It is also a fascinating commentary about the creation of art and the art world. Tom Rachman is a fine, fine writer.

Charles (Pinch) Bavinsky is an odd but sympathetic character. I rooted for him, as his father, even from a distance, kept crushing him. I felt frustrated by Pinch's inertia and wanted him to make more of his life! And then, finally, in his own way, h
lark benobi
I would have loved listening to this as an audiobook on an airplane as it gave me very vivid scenic impressions that would have lifted me right out of my economy seat and transported me to a better place. But as it is I am in a very good place already, so the book bored me a little.
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plotting and pacing on this one didn't completely hang together for me, but I'm one of a small number of readers who really likes having a cast of imperfect characters, and there were plenty of flaws in this cast.

Our protagonist is Charles, son of Bear and Natalie. Bear is an American artist of some renown who paints parts of bodies. He is the kind of famous person you read about in the National Enquirer: charismatic, narcissistic, and constantly seducing women (and making plenty of childre
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Tom Rachman is the author of four works of fiction: his bestselling debut, The Imperfectionists (2010), which was translated into 25 languages; the critically acclaimed follow-up, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers (2014); a satirical audiobook-in-stories Basket of Deplorables (2017); and an upcoming novel set in the art world, The Italian Teacher (March 2018).

Born in London and raised in Vancouver,

Articles featuring this book

Tom Rachman, a former journalist who worked for The Associated Press as a foreign-desk editor and a correspondent in Rome, is the author of the...
14 likes · 3 comments
“Nobody likes to be understood without warning.” 5 likes
“What’s there to say about making paintings?” He looks hard at his son. “My real life, it’s when I’m working. It’s entirely there. The rest—everything—is flimflam. And that’s tragedy. Because what am I really doing? Wiping colors across fabric? Tricking people into feeling something’s there, when it’s nothing? When I’m doing the work, I almost think it adds up. Then they drag me to some farce like tonight, and I’m reminded what my job really is: goddamn decoration.” 2 likes
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