AbeBooks' review of A Season With Verona: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and...Goals! by Tim Parks
This is a book about football or soccer, depending on where you come from.
Tim Parks is an Englishman who is a university professor in Italy. He supports Hellas Verona - a so so football club in the provincial city of Verona made famous by William Shakespeare - and this book recounts a single season where Hellas Verona are battling to remain in Serie A, the top flight of football in Italy.
Verona are rarely brilliant, occasionally good, often appalling and always frustrating. Parks' pain is keenly felt. What makes this book different to all the other sports books about a football season is the way Parks writes. He's analyzing Italy, the Italians and Italian culture as much as he is writing about the events on the pitch. We learn about the issue of racism in Italy, we see the North South divide, we see politics in action, we see learn to understand the Italian media and we learn about the histories of various cities.
This is second most intellectual sports books I've ever read after Beyond A Boundary by CLR James, a Marxist author who loved cricket and dissected colonialism. Parks travels with the Verona fans across Italy and describes an amazing array of social misfits and obsessive football fans.
The last few chapters are particularly wonderful. I had no idea whether Verona managed to succeed in avoiding relegation and there is genuine excitement as Parks describes each of the final games of the season.