The Pursuit of Italy

A History of a Land, Its Regions, and Their Peoples
Narrated by: Napoleon Ryan
Length: 19 hrs and 25 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (67 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Did Garibaldi do Italy a disservice when he helped its disparate parts achieve unity? Was the goal of political unification a mistake? These questions are asked and answered in a number of ways in this engaging, original consideration of the many histories that contribute to the brilliance - and weakness - of Italy today.

David Gilmour's exploration of Italian life over the centuries is filled with provocative anecdotes as well as personal observations, and is peopled with the great figures of the Italian past - from Cicero and Virgil to Dante and the Medicis, from Garibaldi and Cavour to the controversial politicians of the 20th century. Gilmour's wise account of the Risorgimento, the pivotal epoch in modern Italian history, debunks the nationalistic myths that surround it, though he paints a sympathetic portrait of Giuseppe Verdi, a beloved hero of the era.

Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinc­tive art, civic cultures, identities, and cuisines. Italy's inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese. Italy's strength and culture still come from its regions rather than from its misconceived, mishandled notion of a unified nation.

©2011 David Gilmour (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Gilmour's compelling look into Italy's past as a way of understanding its present offers a fascinating glimpse of the failures and triumphs of the country." ( Publishers Weekly starred review)
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good history: Tough Narration

The book itself was a reasonably thorough geopolitical history of Italy and provided a new understanding of what drives the country. While it often digressed into unnecessarily long detailed lists, it did provide insight into the evolution of the country. Foreign language quotes or words were not always translated into English, leaving the reader occassionally ignorant of the meaning. While I overall enjoyed the book, I found the narrator to be distractingly difficult to listen to. He infused every single sentence, right down to the end of book attributions, with overwhelming drama, grandious and pompous. He read with dramatic pauses after a word, a phrase, every 5 or 6 words, having absolutely nothing to do with the meaning or action of what he was reading. I am not sure he was paying any attention at all to the meaning. The book was good enough to put up with the narration.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A new take on Italian history

Gilmour swoops through Italian history by focusing on an whole peninsula vision throughout the story of a very divided region. Instead of meticulously going through all the events that occurred in the peninsula over the centuries, Gilmour is concerned about the events that defined what it was to be Italian, an often vague concept. For those looking for a straight history, avoid this book. For those who want a more thorough understanding of Itlay as a whole, as a concept, as it sees itself, and the divisions that the Italy label brings, read on. My only criticism is that I would have liked a little less history and a little more culture.

10 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Wanted do much to enjoy this book

Absolutely impossible to listen to. I will never purchase a book with this narrator again.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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worth the time.

I wanted a concise review of Italian history (from the Middle Ages forward. This book gave me what i wanted!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful (also delightfully catty)

The author knows a lot and has very specific opinions about Italy. He loves it but sees its flaws too. Listening to this book was like going for long walks with an erudite and funny friend who is an expert on Italian history. I learned about Italian street names, about opera, and the history of Sicily and Venice in particular. The author intermixes relatively dry stuff with gossipy details which I greatly appreciated as they kept my lowbrow interest. The narrator's diction matched the tone of the book and worked well. The only "complaint" is that when I wanted to read more about the many characters in the book, then going from the sounds of their names to the actual spellings was challenging for me. I managed but that's a place where the written format helps.

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Historically innacuarate

The book begins with a personal anecdotal story that ends with the author admitting he is not a historian. This is evident. The book is clearly bias and lacks primary sources to back up it's incredible claims. It smacks of British chauvinist sensibility and should not be studied seriously. Be very skeptical listening to this book. Better yet don't listen if you are looking for a true accounting of Italian history.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not enough translation into English

I do not speak Italian and there are important points made with no translation into English. a whole paragraph would build to a specific moment when a certain political party or expression was made, but it was completely lost on me because it was not in English. I appreciate all the research put into the book and the sweep of history, but it was very difficult to complete and away the intended depth.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Great Narrative History Beautifully Read

I'll probably listen to it again soon. And buy the print book. Great adds to my understanding and appreciation of that wonderful country.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I love history, but there is always a spin

Basically, I appreciated this book. The narration was great, the history compelling. The missing part, which is so true of many history books, was a lack of insight into the real role and politics of the various secret societies.