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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > The Italian Teacher

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Let's talk about it...


message 2: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments I am only 59 pages in but I must say that I am loving everything about this book. Most especially at the moment the characters. This could be a possible five star for me.


message 3: by Lljones (new)

Lljones | 172 comments Tom Rachman walks on water.


message 4: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments Lljones wrote: "Tom Rachman walks on water."

Agreed. I think all of his books have been 5-star reads for me.


message 5: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 828 comments I loved this book (and adore Rachman) as well, especially what it had to say about the purpose of art, and what it means to live a worthy life. Pinch as an adult did wear on me a little, I wanted him to be a little less needy, but I could forgive that because it stemmed from his overall loneliness. It was a 5 star read for me as well.


message 6: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is almost impossible to put down. I will be reading all of his other books,


message 7: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 624 comments This is my favorite of the shortlisted books that I've read and the one I'm rooting for. How is this his first time in the tournament? The Imperfectionists is one of those books I constantly recommend and buy for other people.


message 8: by Elizabeth (last edited Dec 18, 2018 11:39AM) (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 828 comments Collin wrote: "For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is almost impossible to put down. I will be reading all of his other books,"

That's called "Slob Gravity," I think it affects most of us here. (From The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, my favorite of his.)


message 9: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is almost impossible to put down. I will be reading all of his other bo..."

Thanks Elizabeth, I was going to go with The Imperfectionists, but I will change to your favourite and read that first.


message 10: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 828 comments Collin wrote: "Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is almost impossible to put down. I will be re..."

Oh no, how I'm feeling the same pressure you felt about The Dictionary of Animal Languages, lol. They're all good, I loved The Imperfectionists as well. (One of the best things about TOB is being introduced to new favorite authors...and of course arguing to defend their brilliance in March. :) I'm glad you've found him!)


message 11: by Jan (last edited Dec 18, 2018 03:55PM) (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is almost impossible to put dow..."

Just to lessen the pressure on Elizabeth :-) , I'll add to the love for The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. Big five-star read for me. Enjoy, Collin!


message 12: by Neale (last edited Dec 18, 2018 09:39PM) (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Thanks to you both. I'm quite sure that if his other books are written in the same style I will like them. Don't you love it when you find a new author. :)


message 13: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments Jan wrote: "Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "Collin wrote: "For me, it's the type of book where the real world just ceases to exist. The narrative just flows along and it is alm..."

And I will third this. I looked back at my Rachman reviews and I actually did not give The Imperfectionists 5-stars, but I did rate The Rise & Fall of Great Powers 5-stars. Looking back, I would probably bump up that Imperfectionists score too though since that novel has stayed with me.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Now I'm feeling guilty about DNF'ing this because I found Pinch to be such a soggy, drippy character - a pet peeve of mine. This may go into the 'try it again' pile.


message 15: by Caroline (new)

Caroline   | 150 comments Nadine -- I was surprised I ended up loving this book so much, because Pinch is NOT an appealing character (and i think the book is aware of that? It definitely got livelier when Marsden + the love interest whose name I forget was around :D )

The book ends up being intensely satisfying to me because despite being a sort of sad loser who I wouldn't really want to be around, Pinch managed to. . .well, I won't say more. But the whole thing works beautifully.

(I really wobbled between voting for this and Washington Black in the Zombie poll; went with WB but I'm still torn.)


message 16: by Jason (new)

Jason Perdue | 624 comments Nadine wrote: "Now I'm feeling guilty about DNF'ing this because I found Pinch to be such a soggy, drippy character - a pet peeve of mine. This may go into the 'try it again' pile."

I wouldn't say he changes as much as gets comfortable with who he is. But, the plot takes him places that make it well worth finishing.


message 17: by Martha (new)

Martha Kate | 36 comments Nadine wrote: "Now I'm feeling guilty about DNF'ing this because I found Pinch to be such a soggy, drippy character - a pet peeve of mine. This may go into the 'try it again' pile."

I was absolutely with you on the soggy and the drippy, so this was a book I had to WORK to love. I am now so grateful for the investment in ploughing through some of my own reservations and snobberies - I think it made the payoff all the sweeter when I made it to the final third of the book. I see what you did there, Mr. Rachman.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments I am convinced!


message 19: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments I’ll add my voice to the “Pinch was too lame for me, DNF’d!”
I kept thinking I would pick it up again if it made the shortlist due to all the love from you folks but I read at least half before realizing I was avoiding reading due to it being on the docket. On to other books!


message 20: by Neale (last edited Dec 19, 2018 07:30PM) (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Amy wrote: "I’ll add my voice to the “Pinch was too lame for me, DNF’d!”
I kept thinking I would pick it up again if it made the shortlist due to all the love from you folks but I read at least half before rea..."


I have not finished yet, but Pinch is definitely a character that is easy to hate. He's a great character though, so flawed, nuanced, a severe lack of self esteem, and a destined to fail everything complex, which I think his father, not intentionally, inflicted upon him when telling him he would never be a painter.


message 21: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Well, finished it and had to give it five stars. I loved that ending. It will be very interesting to see how this goes in the tournament and which book it will go up against.


message 22: by Tim (new)

Tim Paulson | 1 comments I just finished the audiobook and thought it was great. About 2/3 of the way through I realized that The Italian Teacher strongly reminded me of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt from the TOB a couple of years ago, which I also loved and also had mixed reception. I find Pinch and Theo to be similar 'weak' characters especially in how they deal with relationships. Similar themes and topics regarding art as well.


message 23: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Tim wrote: "I just finished the audiobook and thought it was great. About 2/3 of the way through I realized that The Italian Teacher strongly reminded me of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt from the TOB a couple o..."

Thanks for mentioning that Tim, I will have to check The Goldfinch out.


message 24: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments I found this novel very lush and the scenes were lovingly painted. I felt like I could really see the place and the people. It didn't wow me though.

I'm noticing that just now I'm much more interested in reading women's stories, where even the most terrific book feels a little at-a-distance to me just now if the protagonists are male.

I didn't go out of my way and say "oh gosh let's read more women's stories" but I've ended up with that bias lately so this one felt a little less interesting to me.


message 25: by Jess (new)

Jess Gold | 2 comments Tim wrote: "I just finished the audiobook and thought it was great. About 2/3 of the way through I realized that The Italian Teacher strongly reminded me of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt from the TOB a couple o..."

Yes! Marsden seemed like a brother to Boris.


message 26: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 475 comments I enjoyed it for sure, and found the whole conversation about art very interesting, but I was also pretty annoyed by both Pinch and Theo.


message 27: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments OK, just finished it. It didn't remind me of The Goldfinch at all -- but it DID remind me of Percival Elliott's So Much Blue from last year's ToB. Funny, I'd totally forgotten that book until I read this one.


message 28: by C (new)

C | 525 comments That's so weird that the The Italian Teacher is being compared to The Goldfinch. I haven't read The Italian Teacher yet, but when I read The Rise and Fall of Great Powers years ago, it DEFINITELY reminded me of The Goldfinch. If I hadn't read The Goldfinch and disliked it, I would have loved The Rise and Fall of Great Powers a ton more. That was my only complaint against the book.


message 29: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 167 comments I liked this novel, but the weak point for me was the writing (I know I’m in the minority on this point). I’ve read The Impressionists as well and had the same complaint. For me, there’s something clunky in Rachman’s prose that pulls me out of the story and characters. Every so often, there seems to be a word or sentence inserted that doesn’t flow easily from what came before. I’m curious, did anyone else have this reaction?

Overall, though, I think Rachman is a master with plot. In The Italian Teacher, I absolutely loved how the subterfuge (being intentionally vague here) gets more complicated and involved over time. I also loved Rachman’s commentary on the world of collectible art (especially the characters of the gallery owner and the art journalist). In that world, value is created by these “gatekeepers” or “tastemakers,” and Rachman shows how arbitrary it can be.

This deserves its spot on the shortlist, but I wouldn’t pick it to win (just my opinion...a 4-star read for me). I definitely see the comparison to Percival Everett’s So Much Blue, by the way (a novel I loved from last year).


message 30: by Kyle (new)

Kyle | 276 comments The ending really sold me on the book.


message 31: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Just finished and count me among those who added his previous works to their TBR shortly after beginning this.

Tim, I think your comparison to The Goldfinch is spot on. I also have to concur about Pinch's dislikability but that's part of what makes him a great character, I think. Haven't we all met a Pinch at some point in our lives?

I was planning on rating this 4 stars but the ending sold its 5 star worthiness.


message 32: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 828 comments I now feel like I have to defend Pinch! :)

I don't think protagonists need to be strong...the weakness didn't make him any less fascinating as a character, and I liked spending time with him. Just like protagonists who aren't all good and moral (or who really aren't good and moral at all) make more interesting, realistic characters.

And...I liked Pinch. I mean, he always wanted the best for everyone, and of course his loyalty to Bear drove me bonkers, but I understood the hero worship of it. So I felt for him the whole way through, I kept wanting to give him a hug. And I wish more than anything that he could have seen that final gallery room...

(I think part of my sympathy for and understanding of him may be that, if my life hadn't twisted in the ways it did, I could imagine myself ending up being a very similar type of person.)


message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 05, 2019 09:42AM) (new)

Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "I now feel like I have to defend Pinch!

Thanks for sticking up for Pinch, Elizabeth! I liked him, too.


message 34: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Elizabeth Arnold wrote: "I now feel like I have to defend Pinch! :)

I don't think protagonists need to be strong...the weakness didn't make him any less fascinating as a character, and I liked spending time with him. Just..."


You're right, he wasn't all bad but he was frustrating. However, I am now reading Call Me Zebra and Pinch is downright delightful compared to the protagonist in this book.


message 35: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 882 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "I liked this novel, but the weak point for me was the writing (I know I’m in the minority on this point). I’ve read The Impressionists as well and had the same complaint. For me, there’s something ..."

Now that you mention it, I think this was the book I listened to recently where I thought, "that word wasn't quite right, he probably should have used (______) instead..." Maybe you're also a 1 on the enneagram personality profile? ;)

Overall I liked this one (four stars) but felt like I could have liked it more if the characters and plot were a little different. Pinch wasn't and inspiring character, but I can see how it takes more thought for a writer to develop characters that we're not supposed to love. It's probably also more realistic that way.


message 36: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Wow, I loved this book! Pinch felt, to me, like a modern day Jude the Obscure. 💔


message 37: by Navi (new)

Navi (nvsahota) | 8 comments I'll be starting this book on audio today! It's going against my favourite book on the list so far (Milkman) - YIKES!

Has anyone listened to the audio version? If so, do you recommend it?

I'll go back and read all the comments after I've finished :)


message 38: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 126 comments Navi wrote: "I'll be starting this book on audio today! It's going against my favourite book on the list so far (Milkman) - YIKES!

Has anyone listened to the audio version? If so, do you recomm..."

I just finished thus on audio yesterday. Im glad I chose that format because I probably would not have finished it in print. Pinch is not the most interesting character, but the audio helped me get through it and I was rewarded. The book really comes together towards the end and ended up being a solid 3.5 star for me. I still love Milkman more, but I do not regret reading this.


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Seeded as a #3 in the tournament! What??


message 40: by Navi (new)

Navi (nvsahota) | 8 comments Amanda wrote: "I just finished thus on audio yesterday. Im glad I chose that format because I probably would not have finished it in print. Pinch is not the most interesting character, but the audio helped me get through it and I was rewarded. The book really comes together towards the end and ended up being a solid 3.5 star for me. I still love Milkman more, but I do not regret reading this."

Thanks, Amanda! Okay, I'm excited to start this. I really don't think it'll be better than Milkman for me but you never know :)


message 41: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments I got 2/3 through this book and lost the copy I borrowed from the library! I'm not heartbroken not to finish because I was pretty bored by this story. Too many stereotypes, especially women. I am super-sensitive these days to the way male writers portray women characters and I felt like the women I encountered (depressed, artistic mother; blowsy second wife of father; unpredictable girlfriend of Pinch) just didn't have enough depth. But what drove me most crazy of all was Pinch's blindness to his father's bloviating and lying. So, does it get better? Not really thrilled to be paying back the library for a book I don't like.


message 42: by Ruthiella (last edited Jan 17, 2019 04:36PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 361 comments Sarah wrote: "I got 2/3 through this book and lost the copy I borrowed from the library! I'm not heartbroken not to finish because I was pretty bored by this story. Too many stereotypes, especially women. I am s..."

Sarah, there is a little bit of revenge on Bear at the end with a twist, but if you don't have a sympathy for Pinch half way through I don't think you will like him any more later in the book. I suggest you cut your loss and only read on only if maybe this book wins it first match up.


message 43: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments I’m with you Sarah! It was tough to give myself permission to stop reading with so much love for Rachman but I read half without falling in love :)


message 44: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Ellen wrote: "OK, just finished it. It didn't remind me of The Goldfinch at all -- but it DID remind me of Percival Elliott's So Much Blue from last year's ToB. Funny, I'd totally forgotten that ..."

Ditto! In both cases, the ending changed everything for me.


message 45: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 882 comments Yes, good points, Sarah.

And I thought the audio version worked for this book as well, Navi.


message 46: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) As an aside, I'm reading the book on Kindle, where each section is headed with the name of one of Bear's paintings, but no image. I'm wondering if the print version has an actual picture there or if it's just a tease. Thanks.


message 47: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments Michael wrote: "As an aside, I'm reading the book on Kindle, where each section is headed with the name of one of Bear's paintings, but no image. I'm wondering if the print version has an actual picture there or i..."

Oh, good point! I read the arc, so I need this info also!


message 48: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Arnold | 828 comments Oh I wish...I kept trying to understand how a picture of a shoulder could be brilliant enough to make someone so adored.


message 49: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 361 comments Michael wrote: "As an aside, I'm reading the book on Kindle, where each section is headed with the name of one of Bear's paintings, but no image. I'm wondering if the print version has an actual picture there or i..."

I read the print version (library hard back) and there were no pictures with the text.


message 50: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) Ruthiella wrote: "Michael wrote: "As an aside, I'm reading the book on Kindle, where each section is headed with the name of one of Bear's paintings, but no image. I'm wondering if the print version has an actual pi..."

Thanks, Ruthiella. Probably for the best. In other news I've finished the book, and thought it was pretty good, in an assholes-being-assholes way. I have quibbles with the plot, since Rathman had to go to extreme measures to make sure Pinch didn't get caught, all of which would make everyone very suspicious of his plan - anyone else think it was a bit contrived?


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