I received an advanced copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and Edelweiss for allowing me to review.
A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Two Sons, and Their Fight Against Fascism
Expected Publication October 3, 2017
Non-Fiction, 20th Century History
Nominated for The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction Longlist
“The acclaimed author of A Train in Winter and Village of Secrets delivers the next chapter in “The Resistance Quartet”: the astonishing story of the aristocratic Italian family who stood up to Mussolini’s fascism, and whose efforts helped define the path of Italy in the years between the World Wars—a profile in courage that remains relevant today.”
Caroline Moorehead uses letters, family interviews, and photographs to tell the story of the Rosselli family and their courageous actions during the first three decades of the 20th Century. Amelia, a girl who grew up in Venice, triumphed through many hardships to raise her three sons who grew up to become extremely involved in Italian politics. They refused to allow Mussolini and his squaddristi to deter them from standing up to fascism, which ultimately had an enormous impact on Italian history.
Amelia was born in Venice January 1870. She had an extremely lonely and tough childhood. After her father’s death Amelia moved to Rome with her mother when she was 15. She met her future husband Giuseppe Rosselli in Rome when she was 19. She gave birth to her son Aldo in 1895, Carlo in 1899, and her third son Sabatino (Nello) in 1900. In 1903 Amelia moved to Florence with her sons after Giuseppe and Amelia separated. She spent her time writing poems, short stories, and articles for magazines. As an extremely vigilant mother she was sometimes perceived as harsh. In 1911 Giuseppe fell ill, Amelia went to look after him until his death later that year.
There was incredible political tension in Florence at this time. Amelia became extremely involved with fighting for women’s rights, in particular education. In May 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, and Amelia’s son Aldo left to join the war. Sadly he died and she opened a home for children of soldiers who had no mothers and named it after her son, La Casina di Aldo. Her other sons Carlo and Nello went to war, thankfully both returned safely in 1920.
Benito Mussolini took advantage of a broken Italy, created the Fascist Party in 1919, and a military unit called “The Black Shirts” to silence anti-fascists like the Rosselli brothers. Moorehead provides a detailed account of the action-reaction relationship between Mussolini and the Rosselli family over the next two decades. I had never heard of the Rosselli family before reading this book, and am grateful to have gained that knowledge.
My favourite part of the book was reading about Amelia. The book started with her being the star of the story, but as her sons become more involved with politics her thoughts and actions become less visible. This book is obviously well-researched, and it should have interested someone with a minor in history, but I was often bored and feel like it would have been better if useless information was omitted. I debated not finishing this book, which is something I don’t do very often (there are only maybe 2 or 3 books that I started and haven’t finished). It was the title that drew my attention and made me think this would be an exciting historical account of a “dangerous” family, but in actuality it’s extremely dry and academic.
That being said, I do feel like there are many readers who would love to learn more about the Rosselli family and their impact on Italian history. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy WWI and WWII history, especially if you’re interested in learning more about Italian political history during that time period.
“Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of Village of Secrets, A Train in Winter, and Human Cargo: A Journey Among the Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer, Moorehead has also written for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, The Times, and The Independent. She lives in London and Italy.”