For the last few months Anglo-Italian novelist Tim Parks has been writing of his devotion to Italian football club Hellas Verona in The Guardian
. In A Season with Verona
we get a chance to read the full and absorbing narrative that lay behind those short snippets.
In some ways the book is a standard travelogue. In following his lowly Series A team in their seasonal slog around Italy, Parks gets to visit all the famous sights and cities. What makes this journey so different and so interesting is that Parks is accompanied by vividly ordinary, honestly working-class, determinedly urban Italians and gets to share their Nick Hornbyish highs and lows. This in turn provides a credible, fresh and revealing insight into the Italian character. These fans do all the normal soccer-supporter things like fight, drink, despair, exult, rant and put each other in comas; but they also do more surprising things, like sing songs in praise of the murderous Liverpool fans of Heysel and give voice to racist feelings about their southern compatriots.
This may not sound like most people's image of southern loveliness. Indeed it isn't. But it is a much needed antidote to all that saccharine-sweet Under The Tuscan Sun stuff; and it also makes this book a splendid bedside companion to the Italian campaign in the next, or indeed any, World Cup. --Sean Thomas
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"Addictive reading...each chapter is a short story, the whole book an epic" (Observer
"Parks knows his football, and he knows Italy still better. His adopted country, in all its enduring and exasperating strengths and weaknesses, comes vividly to life" (Sunday Times
"A fascinating emotional journey... His descriptions of Italian football are descriptions of Italy itself, its regional differences, its squabbles, its distinctive temper" (Daily Telegraph
"An enthralling, insightful account of the real Italy" (Independent