Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Italian Teacher” as Want to Read:
The Italian Teacher
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Italian Teacher

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  4,553 ratings  ·  612 reviews
“An exotic touch of intrigue arises in THE ITALIAN TEACHER . . . deliciously ironic and deeply affectionate.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
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
Kindle Edition, 347 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Viking (first published February 20th 2018)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Italian Teacher, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Terese vanOel
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,553 ratings  ·  612 reviews

Sort order
Elyse Walters
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artists, italians
”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
“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 well-kn
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
"'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 loo
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
“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
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Julie Christine
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.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Life's too short. It just is. If you like stuff like the following excerpt you'll like and possibly love this book, which isn't bad so much as glib, sketchy, lightly composed, casually researched, scanty notes-for-a-novel, TV-ready, more than a little self-satisfied.

"Without airs, he recounted his dealings in the New York art milieu: quirky collectors, avaricious dealers, boldface-name artists she’d read about but whom he knew personally. In each story, he downplayed his role, as if he were a b
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pinch’s parents are both artists. His mother, Natalie, is an eccentric maker of pottery and his father is the renowned painter, Bear Bavinsky. Bear is completely self-absorbed and only cares about his art. His son strives for his attention and praise. When Pinch makes his own effort at being an artist, his father tells him that he, Pinch, will never be an artist and Pinch believes him. Bears abandons Pinch and his mother in Italy and is off to America, where more wives and children await him. Pi ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Dictionary of Animal Languages
  • The Hunting Accident
  • So Lucky
  • Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices And Small Salaries Of America's Teachers
  • So Much Blue
  • Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud
  • A Terrible Country
  • The Golden State
  • Se Venezia muore
  • Twenty-eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays
  • Being Polite to Hitler
  • Florence in Ecstasy
  • The Italian Party
  • Gone to Pot
  • The Parking Lot Attendant
  • Congratulations, Who Are You Again?
  • Up from Freedom
  • The Way Back to Florence
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 Vancouv
“Nobody likes to be understood without warning.” 3 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
More quotes…