Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

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 string of women behind him and seventeen neglected children.

Bear routinely destroys any canvas he deems subpar. 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 ending

Of 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.

The Italian Teacher
by Tom Rachman
Viking
Publication Date: March 20. 2018
ISBN: 9780735222694
Hardcover $27.00