Review

Italian Neighbors: Or a Lapsed Anglo-saxon in Verona

by Tim Parks

"It
is as summer gets into full swing that you are reminded you are
living in a foreign country. A strange breed of wasps, more than an
inch long, have made their nest in the eaves above our balcony and
will occasionally whir into the flat, causing intense alarm.
Opposite the church we see a snake, head held high, sliding rapidly
along the wall of the flood emergency dike. Typing away at Il
Professore's desk, I become aware that a baby lizard has come in
through the French window and is soaking up the sunshine on the
tiles by my feet. Outside, freed from their winter covers, lemon
and orange trees flourish again in tubs by lowly back doors
shrouded with bead curtains against the flies."
The
power of Tim Parks's narrative is such that we can never forget
he's living in a foreign country. Italy comes alive under his pen
and it's an Italy seldom represented.
ITALIAN NEIGHBORS is not a dewey-eyed love letter to Italy.
Refreshingly, it's more of a newsy letter home to the parents, full
of colorful characters and humorous experiences --- the kind that
are found in, well, a neighborhood. This travel narrative lives up
to its title; it's about making a year-round home in a flat
surrounded by Italian neighbors, not spending expensive but idyllic
summers in the countryside only to return home to Britain or the
United States for the other nine months of the year.
Tim
Parks has a wry tone that makes even a discussion about Italian
politics seem interesting and he puts it to good use describing the
village near Verona that he and his wife decide to make home. He
introduces us to Lucilla, a howling dervish of a woman who believes
the flat Tim Parks and his wife move into should have been hers;
Vittorina, a superstitious, gossipy woman whose generally morose
nature is overshadowed by her wholehearted laughter and innate
generosity; the green-thumbed and environmentally tyrannical
Giampaolo; and Vega, the dog everyone dreams of
poisoning.
Politics, bureaucracy, local festivals, the challenge of
getting a telephone, the difference between government workers and
all other wage earners, and pregnancy Italian-style... ITALIAN
NEIGHBORS takes the reader behind Italian doors --- both quotidian
and unique --- to meet people, not stereotypes. This charming and
imminently readable book explains how the author and his wife
reached the "point of no return" and decided to put down roots in
the warm, centuries-old Italian soil.
As
Tim Parks so eloquently puts it, ITALIAN NEIGHBORS is more than a
travel book...it's an "arrival book."

Reviewed by Jami Edwards on January 22, 2011

Italian Neighbors: Or a Lapsed Anglo-saxon in Verona
by Tim Parks

  • Publication Date: June 1, 1993
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Travel
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0449908186
  • ISBN-13: 9780449908181