Italian Teacher (Rachman)

The Italian Teacher 
Tom Rachman, 2018
Penguin Publishing
352 pp.

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—London, England, UK
Raised—Vancouver, Canada
Education—B.A., University of Toronto; M.A., Columbia University
Currently—lives in London

Tom Rachman was born in London and raised in Vancouver, Canada. A graduate of the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Journalism, he has been a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, stationed in Rome. From 2006 to 2008, he worked as an editor at the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He lives in London.

The Imperfectionsists (2010) is his first novel; The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (2014) his second, followed by The Italian Teacher (2018). (Adapted from the publisher and Wikipedia. Retrieved 6/09/2014.)

Book Reviews
The reliably excellent Rachman this time offers a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a celebrated painter looking ahead to his legacy.
Entertainment Weekly

Pencils down, brushes up: Rachman goes beyond the base coat with THE ITALIAN TEACHER, a portrait of a son his large-scale father.
Vanity Fair

(Starred review) [An] artful page-turner…. Spanning the 1950s to the present, the novel… makes for a satisfying examination of authorship and authenticity, and… how crafting an identity independent of one’s parents can be a lifelong, worthwhile project.
Publishers Weekly

long with the skewering of art-world and academic pretensions, there is humor, humanity, and compassion in Rachman’s writing. For most fiction readers.
Library Journal

(Starred review) A momentous drama of a volatile relationship and the fundamental will to survive.

[P]oignant …[with] an ironic conclusion that also shimmers with love and regret.… A sensitive look at complicated relationships that's especially notable for the fascinatingly conflicted protagonist.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THE ITALIAN TEACHER … then take off on your own:

1. What was it like to grow up under the shadow of Bear Bavinsky? What was the damage imposed on his son, Pinch? How has Pinch emerge from his childhood and young adult years: what scars has he been nursing all these years? In other words, how would you describe Pinch? Do you find yourself sympathetic toward him … or perhaps a little frustrated by him?

2. What do you make of Bear—the father of 17 children who has sprinkled the world with his abandoned spouses and ashes of burned paintings? Of all the things he says and/or does to Pinch, which do you find the most egregious, the most damaging?

3. What role does Pinch's mother Natalie play in the family dynamics and throughout Pinch's life? What happens to her life as an artist? How would you describe Pinch's relationship with her?

4. Nattty tells Pinch at one point that "you need to be selfish as an artist—that's why it's so much harder for a woman." What do you make of her statement?

5. Follow-up to Question 4: in the end, who in the family proves to be the strongest?

6. Bear tells Pinch, "Nobody sees themselves." Cynical? Perceptive? What does he mean?

7. Of all of Bear's children, most of whom keep their distance from their father, Pinch is the one who works to maintain a relationship. Why? Over the years, how does the balance of power shift between father and son? Do you have sympathy for Bear at some any point...or at no point?

8. Were you surprised, pleased, disappointed at the novel's ending? How has Pinch changed by the end … has he grown?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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