Book Review: Italian Neighbours

Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona by Tim Parks is written along the same vein as Stephen Clarke's A Year in the Merde. I picked up the book at la Feltrinelli for 14 Euros while visiting Italy in 2005. It remained mostly forgotten until this past fall when I found it buried under some Italian novels. While not as funny or wry as Clarke's memoir of his adventures in France, Italian Neighbours offers an amusing look at a British couple's life in Montecchio, a town outside of Verona.

As an Italian, I found that many of Parks' observations were valid. Specifically, chapters such as Statali, dipendenti, autonomi... rang true. The chapter details the lengths people go to land civil servant jobs as statali - positions that offer lifetime security and benefits. It is these civil servants that permeate the Italian bureaucracy that Parks must grapple with on a regular basis. Other chapters focus on everything from the use of Italian words and bureaucratic bribes to old maids, religion and other local characters.

Italian Neighbours is 326 pages and perhaps a bit long but certainly enjoyable. And, as you can guess from the book's title, you will become very acquainted with Parks' neighbors (with a "u"). While not in the same league as The Italians, the book is worth reading.

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