Category Archives: Quercus Books

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman Title: The Italian Teacher
Author: Tom Rachman
Genre:Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Rating:4 Stars

After a very long time, I read a book about art and its understanding and more than anything else about the value it holds in our lives. “The Italian Teacher” is a melting pot of everything – well, almost – it is about art, its integrity, how to preserve it, the frailty of humans, and of relationships we hold close and the ones that often break way too easily.

Pinch’s parents are both artists. To a very large extent it is the bane of his life, but somehow Pinch learns to live with it. His mother, Natalie, is a maker of pottery and quite eccentric at that. While his father, Bear Bavinsky is a renowned painter who only cares about his art and nothing else in the world means anything to him. Pinch only wants his father to notice him and show him some affection.

Pinch wants to become an artist and his dissuaded by his father, who leaves Natalie and Pinch in Italy, moving to America where other wives and children await him. Years pass. Pinch wants to chronicle his father’s life but ends up teaching Italian in London. One fine day Bear dies and Pinch comes up with a plan to ensure his father’s legacy is secure.

That in short is the plot of the book. But this is just the surface. There is a lot which takes place that I haven’t even mentioned. The rawness of emotions, passion for art and above all the desire to keep proving oneself to ones we love is at the crux of this book. Rachman strikes so many chords and presses all the right buttons when it comes to emotions and relatability (we all can relate to it – after all it is all about ambition and love at the end of the day).

“The Italian Teacher” is an immersive experience. I could sense everything – the way Rachman weaves not only the story but the passages and chapters on art are so stunning that I often thought I was there, as it was all unfolding. The book starts in 1955 and goes on till 2018 and the sheer expanse of the book – plus to ensure to tie everything together is no easy task. The span of the book is done justice to by Rachman. The relationship between a son and his father shines throughout the book – it is so complex and layered that you are only left thinking about your relationship with your parents.

At the same time the questions of art and what it takes to be an artist are deftly managed and in relation to the world that changes across the book. “The Italian Teacher” is a feast of a read which is not to be missed.


Book Review: Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

Title: Ten Thousand Saints
Author: Eleanor Henderson
Publisher: Quercus Books
ISBN: 978-1780872179
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It took me quite a lot of time to get into the skin of this book and enjoy it. “Ten Thousand Saints” by Eleanor Henderson wasn’t an easy read to begin with. Let me directly get to the plot.

The book begins on New Year’s Eve 1987 in a fictional college town Lintonburg, Vermont. Two teenagers, Teddy and Jude are out partying with their new friend Eliza from Manhattan. Everything seems to be going fine when Teddy is found dead the next morning, after huffing Freon and on an overdose of Cocaine. The guilt weighs heavy on Jude and Eliza, as they were the ones who provided the drugs. Eliza also discovers that she is pregnant with Teddy’s baby and is confounded about what to do. Eliza, Jude and Teddy’s older half-brother Johnny then decide to raise the baby.

That is essentially the crux of the story. I found it a little difficult to read initially because of the structure but when you get used to it, it is a breeze. The parents of the teenagers are as involved in the book as the kids. The story also centers on the parents’ decisions and its impact on their kids. Jude’s divorced parents make their living by selling marijuana. Eliza’s mom is a self-indulgent and aging ballerina. Teddy and Johnny’s mom is an aging hippie. In short: Nothing is what it seems and it all goes wrong and also connects everyone with the other after Teddy’s death.

The book does tend to get repetitive at times but it is fascinating to some extent. There are times when you can get into the characters’ minds because they are so well-formed and etched. Maybe it is nothing new, but the content covers almost every topic – from homelessness to the emergence of AIDS in the late 80’s, to the time when things were progressing rapidly in the US of A and its impact on the characters and their lives.

The metaphors used are marvellous and fit like a glove on every page. The redemption of characters takes place gradually in the book and when you see it as a reader, it has the capacity to astound you. The overarching themes make the plot what it is – beautiful that is. The moral dilemma of the characters only adds to the book.

“Ten Thousand Saints” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely mine and I am glad I endured and read through it.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Ten Thousand Saints from