Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to PalermoItalian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some writers whose style is so pleasant, whose humour is so gentle and to whom you return so often that you feel you know them personally; to sit and spend an hour in the company of one of their books is like chatting to your dearest friend over a cup of tea and they have that rare talent of making you think without distressing you. Among my "comfort writers" I would number Alexander McCall Smith, Maeve Binchy and, when it comes to books about Italy, Tim Parks.

It is difficult to point out the disadvantages of living in an adopted country without causing offence but Tim Parks is one of the writers who has always managed it and he does so again in "Italian Ways". This is not a travel book, though there are elements of travel writing in it, nor is it about life in any one part of Italy: rather, it is about the author's journeys on Italian railways over a period of some thirty years and his encounters with people, conflicting systems and bureaucracy in the process. Through these stories, we also gain a fair knowledge of the history of the Italian railway system and the trains that run on it - a lesson presented in a most entertaining way.

No reader who knows Italy will fail to identify with Parks's dealings with the "pignoli" - whom we would call "Jobsworths" in Britain - of Trenitalia and other operators and I had to smile at his descriptions of southern resignation as he travelled down Italy.

Yes, Mr Parks even made it to Modica by train and, disappointingly, has little to say about the town. True, as he himself has said and as I have said above, this is not a travel book, but I hardly think it is fair that Lecce gets more space than Modica. Of course, I could be biased! Or could it be that Tim Parks, as he travelled deeper and deeper into the South, became more southern himself?

"Don't be concerned that you may have nothing to say about these places. Just be here, on the journey, at every moment of the journey."

- Very southern Italian and not a bad philosophy of life, really!

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This review is also posted on Goodreads.


Whispering Walls said...

I've heard great things about his books. Agree with you re AMcCS as a comfort writer. I haven't read any Binchy

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, WW. I'm sure you'd enjoy his books.

Lee said...

That sounds like a book I would enjoy.

Happy Birthday for 14th February, Pat. It's already Friday morning here as I I'm really not getting in early...I'm on time!

Enjoy your day and treat yourself well. :)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Lee. I'm sure you'd enjoy it. Thanks so much for your good wishes. x

Peter MacFarlane said...

Indeed, yes, got this book for Christmas and I love it. But then, I love travelling on Trenitalia!

All of Parks' non-fiction is wonderful; I haven't read his novels.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Peter. I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I haven't read the novels either.


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