Italy in Books - An Italian Education, by Tim Parks

I know, I know, it's been a while. I promise I'll put more book reviews up here in the future. Here, at last though, is another one. Here's my review of one of my favorite books - An Italian Education, by Tim Parks.

This is my second Tim Park book, and, while I enjoyed A Season in Verona, partly for the Italian aspect and partly for the footballing aspect, I think I like this book more. Focusing on Tim Park's musing about his children growing up Italian, this book is a window into Italian culture from someone who's living it, both vicariously through his children, but also through the close interactions that having children in another country brings.

The book starts on the beach, explaining in great (and accurate, in my humble opinion) detail the precision and metronomic perfection of Italian beach life. Hilariously, this idyllic, regimented hierarchical structure is compared to an English beach holiday. Something I can easily relate to. By doing this comparison, Tim Parks opens the book by opening the mind of the reader to the possibility that la dolce vita is less about a carefree frolic in the sun and more about following a set pattern, never stepping outside of opaque boundaries, and never, ever, going for a swim until 3 hours after lunch. It's a great opening, and one that helped me adapt to my own Italian beach experience this summer.

After this, the book relates various aspects of Italian life, detailing the social fabric of the local community, the little white lies and manipulations present in every society, plus the joys of attending an Italian school's parents evening, and generally living a life Italian. I found the book really easy to read, and fun. I particularly enjoyed the sections where Tim Parks talks about his kids learning uncomfortable jokes or coming out with something deeply Italian. It's a perfect beach book (in fact, I read it on the beach at Riccione), and is a good book to take with you if you're traveling around Italy. It's quite light and funny, yet still covers some serious stuff.

An Italian Education is filled with anecdotes about Italian life. It's all told with compassion and understanding, so I never felt as if any situation was overplayed or exaggerated. It's obvious that Tim Parks loves his adopted country, and his musings on Italian life, seen through his eyes and through watching his children grow up Italian, are a joy to read, as well as an education.

An Italian Education can be bought from Amazon (US) through the LazioExplorer Amazon store, or from all good bookshops.


  1. Hi Pete,

    I'm going to add this title to the I Love Italy Reading Challenge review link page on my blog. It sounds like the kind of book I would read!


    1. Hi Laura,

      Great! Glad I inspired you. Let me know when your review is up :)

  2. I think I have read most of Tim Parks books, I have certainly enjoyed them though no reviews as it was before I started blogging.

  3. Another really great read by Tim Parks, in which he compares his English childhood and family to that of his Italian born children and in-laws. Funny, warm, entertaining this book provides an insightful glimpse of Italian culture. I couldn't put this book down.

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