The Italian Teacher

Tom Rachman. Viking, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2269-4
In Rachman’s artful third page-turner (after The Rise & Fall of Great Powers), the son of a world-renowned painter struggles to escape the dark shadow cast by his father. Born in Rome to a mistress turned bride, Pinch Bavinsky only sees his domineering father, Bear, during the elder’s summer visits to Europe. After a trip by teenage Pinch to 1960s New York ends with Bear crushing his artistic ambitions, the son abandons his dreams of painting to embark on a failed career in academia before becoming a foreign language instructor in London. The most trusted of Bear’s 17 children, Pinch appoints himself overseer of his aging father’s work, and much of the novel’s well-staged tension emerges from Pinch’s choice in the early aughts to paint a reproduction of one of Bear’s paintings and sell it, passing it off as one of his father’s. Spanning the 1950s to the present, the novel does traffic a bit in familiar notions of the art world and difficult artists, but its subversion of these tropes makes for a satisfying examination of authorship and authenticity, and a fine fictionalization of how crafting an identity independent of one’s parents can be a lifelong, worthwhile project. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2018
Release date: 03/20/2018
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-385-68960-1
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-525-58932-7
Ebook - 978-0-7352-2271-7
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