"Italy in Books" - April reviews

Thanks again for joining the "Italy in Books” reading challenge 2011! What? You haven't joined yet? No worries, there is time to sign up until the very last day of the year...

Below you can find a list of all the book reviews submitted in April (via this link). I am sure that everyone will find it useful to learn about new and interesting reading ideas - in fact, I suspect that as a result of this challenge my TBR list will expand dangerously!

Whether you know the books that are being discussed or have never heard of them, I strongly encourage you to leave comments below and on the blogs themselves. I want to hear your voices! Despite its name, the reading challenge is not a mere competition, rather an opportunity to share ideas and bond over common interests!

Let's begin!

01. BJ read and reviewed An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser.
02. Barbara read and reviewed The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie.
03. Dorla read and reviewed Postscript to the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
04. Tina read and reviewed Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes.
05. Lynn read and reviewed Juliet by Anne Fortier.

06. Gretchen read and reviewed The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi.
07. Tina read and reviewed Dolci di Love by Sarah-Kate Lynch.
08. Jeane read Mussolini by Denis Mack Smith. Scroll down to read her review.
09. Parrish read and reviewed The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems edited by Jamie McKendrick.
10. Patricia read and reviewed Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio.
11. Lara read I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Scroll down to read her review.
12. Laura read and reviewed The Eternal City by Domenica de Rosa.
13. Angela read The Rule of Nine by Steve Martini. Scroll down to read her review.
14. Juliet read and reviewed Titian - The Last Days by Mark Hudson.
15. Lindy read and reviewed The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson.
16. Pete read and reviewed Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano.

Reviews by non bloggers

Mussolini by Denis Mack Smith. Read and reviewed by Jeane:
Non-fiction books about history are for me always very interesting but at the same time I am always wondering if it is all true or what is and what not. But then I think that what is true depends often, especially in war related history, at which side you were. I am Belgian and for sure we thought negative about what was happening in our country during WWI and II, while the Germans were probably thinking completely different. My Italian boyfriend always advise me to read about Italian history in books written by non-Italians. The author is English and he is specialized in a part of Italian history. But how can I now if he wrote this completely neutral or not. And if he wrote this neutral, how do I know if the information he used was pro-, contra or neutral towards Mussolini? Whatever it is, I learned a lot from this book. Having an Italian boyfriend it keeps amazing me how people over the world have learned different things at school, have a different idea or feeling about historical aspects. One of them is Fascism. What I learned about is completely different than what he learned. So reading this book taught me about Fascism, but especially about the person Mussolini was. Even if I don't know if everything is true or not. It also taught me about parts different countries played just before WWII and about wars or occupying countries beginning 20th century. The book went very slow, besides during the parts towards wars, but is very interesting. It talked about Mussolini being a young boy, through his young life and how he came in contact with politics and made his entrance in national politics at high level. It also makes me want to read for sure more about him and the people mentioned in the book like for instance Cavour.

I promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. Read and reviewed by Lara:
This is the story of all the love stories. A story that combines adventure, drama, passion, war, political issues, and takes place in Northern Italy, between Como, an astonishing lake scenario, Milano and, overall, Lombardy.
Two souls are hampered from realizing their love dream because of other people’s intrusion and adverse events (war, famine, black death). They will meet up again after long time, mature, aware, and destiny will reward them with the wedding, in a classical happy end.
I have chosen this book because I recently read again some pages of it. I Promessi Sposi is a compulsory reading at school and not always it appears a pleasant reading, just the opposite. I could not stand the naïve Lucia, the impetuous Renzo, the two protagonists, and I found implausible the series of events that made for them impossible to celebrate this wedding. Why such a wedding, recalling Don Abbondio’s words “non s’ha da fare”?
Moreover, I found not so useful to the story dynamic the intervention of so many characters. Ok for Don Abbondio and Don Rodrigo, whose choices and behaviour will determine the beginning of everything, but why to include, like in a fantasy parade, the Innominato, the Monaca di Monza, the Cardinale Borromeo, and so on, each character with his/her personal history that deviates from the main story? Finally, some tragic scenes constitute mere digressions: it is the case for the chapter dedicated to the black death, where Cecilia’s death is widely described.
Even today I could not say if I liked “I Promessi Sposi”. Anyway, it is a reading that I would strongly suggest to anyone who would like to learn more about Italy. Why, someone could ask, given my strong criticism? Well, Alessandro Manzoni put in this story so much passion, sorrow, fears, hopes, desires, history and places, that each one at the end, would be able to say “I learnt a lot, I know a lot about a country and its people, I finally understand Italy”.

The Rule of Nine by Steve Martini. Read and reviewed by Laura:
This is the first novel I read by Mr. Martini. I enjoyed it very much. It was clear and the story moved along at a fast enough pace to keep me interested. The book is Post 9/11 and talks of terrorism since then. The lead character is Paul Madriani, a defense attorney caught up in a terror plot because his business card is found on a dead body. The ending left one part of the story hanging, one of the bad guys, a cold blooded killer is still tracking and is on the way to kill Mr. Madriani's daughter, I am hoping that his next novel will pick up this part of the story, as the killer, Lakita, is intense, and I would like to see this part of the story wind up.

And remember, one April reviewer is in for a chance to win a copy of Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine by John T Spike, courtesy of Duckworth Publishers. Buona fortuna!


  1. An Italian Afair was the first book I read when I moved to Nottingham, UK about six years ago I think. I didn't hav a library card yet and my boyfriend needed to go to a work meeting for half an hour to an hour. As I didn't know the city yet I told him we could meet in the library. It is the place to spend an hour without being bored. When he came back he found me on a seat reading this book. He never goes to the library but had a card to use the internet, so that was his first and only book that went on that card!

  2. Just discovered this great reading group through LindyLouMack in Italy.
    It sounds like great fun, is it too late to join in??
    Maggie @ Normandy Life

  3. Hi Maggie!

    It's never too late to join in! If you scroll to the top of this post you will find all the links you need to sign up.

    Look forward to your reviews!


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