Book Review: Return to Naples by Robert Zweig, Ph.D

Return to Naples - My Italian Bar Mitzvah and Other Discoveries by Robert Zweig PhD

Return to Naples – My Italian Bar Mitzvah and Other Discoveries by Robert Zweig PhD

I loved this book and its collection of carefully told memories. If you know Naples, or are curious about the city, this is an easy, fascinating read – a surprisingly gentle ride around a family and a city scarred by war.

Continue reading

Book Review: Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson

Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson


Cities are like people … some are packed with character, and others less so.

The city of Naples in Italy is a character, one that can raise you to heaven or leave you in despair.  Johann Goethe was ecstatic; Mark Twain fairly grumpy; Shirley Hazzard inspired; and Elena Ferrante fierce and irresistible.  Now, published in 2016, here’s Katherine Wilson whose style goes straight to the heart of the city.

Continue reading

In search of a book in Naples, Italy

A look back: this piece was first published on 12 February 2016. I can still feel the sunshine of that walk, and the satisfaction of being able to ask for help in simple Italian. The embarrassing part is that, a year on, the book I took such trouble to hunt down is still not finished … plus I’ve discovered my weary dictionary isn’t big enough for Enzo Striano.

The Phraser

Books and Naples, Italy are old friends Books and Napoli are old friends

Step in amongst the books in this ancient city and it’s hard to avoid the big names on almost every corner. My search for just one novel was busy enough.

Start on the Lungomare and there’s the castle known, thanks to Virgil, as the Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg).

View original post 937 more words

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

This post, a review of the last of Elena Ferrante’s novels about Naples, Italy, was first published on 16 January 2016. I read all four books in this series while I lived on the outskirts of Naples. Thanks to Ferrante I was shown inside the city, inside what links us all.

The Phraser

The last of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels The last of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels

This is a story about the dark places, and the fires, inside all of us.  It’s not new, it’s as old as Naples, but it’s told with the energy of possibility and through the eyes of women.

The Story of the Lost Child is the last book in a series of four – the Neapolitan novels.

View original post 295 more words

I’ve just read the Napoli section of Goethe’s ‘Italian Journey’

A look back (first published on 6 January 2016): Naples is not a ‘do-in-a-day-city’ – it’s a city with roots, a city that takes time, a city that feels like it might be time itself. Even Goethe lost his rhythm here.

The Phraser

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (portrait by Stieler 1828)

There are names I heard at school that are still buried beneath teacher dust. Names I’ve never looked at again – unreachable, academic names.  Goethe was one of them.

Then, a few weeks ago, I bumped into him on the internet and I read his notes on Naples.  They were a happy find.

View original post 411 more words

Book Review: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

A look back (first published 24 November 2015): this review is of the third of the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read them all whilst in and around Naples, Italy.

The Phraser

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

This book, the third in the series, has an ache in it that grows as the story lengthens.  It is about the absence of love and belonging, and the complications of motherhood.

The themes belong to us all and Ferrante intensifies them against the backdrop of Naples. She paints her story with the city’s colours, chosen for their truth from a palette that other cities struggle to match.

View original post 292 more words

Book Review: The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

This little book, which I met first in the bookstore at the airport in Napoli, dropped its hero into my life like a coin into a pool.  He span so deep and so fast that he was almost lost … until, from nowhere, a sudden current pulled him out of sight.

Continue reading