cover image Pictures from Italy

Pictures from Italy

Charles Dickens, illus. by Livia Signorini. Tara Books (PGW, dist.), $19.95 (130p) ISBN 978-93-80340-16-6

This travelogue of Dickens's 1844 Italian sojourn retains the wit and sumptuous detail of his novels, but lacking an explicit narrative, the book never coalesces into much more than a series of sketches. The fragmentary nature of the text is exacerbated by the removal, by editor V. Geetha, of "sections that appear tediously familiar today." As a result, the most memorable sections of the book are not descriptions of the Italian countryside or cities, but Dickens's own reveries on memory and history, which still hold their power even in excerpt. In fact, the text is somewhat secondary in this handsome edition; the primary reason to obtain this volume is the gorgeous illustrative work of Italian artist Livia Signorini. Collaging old maps, postcards, and photographs, Signorini's design complements the introspective nature of Dickens's text, particularly when she interprets his surreal vision of Venice in an eerie, dream-like four-panel spread. So while Dickens aficionados may be disappointed by the textual liberties taken by Geetha, those interested in studying the ways in which visual art and text can interact with and complement one another will gain much from paging through this edition. Color illus. (Nov.)