The Madonna of the Mountains - Elise Valmorbida

April 21, 2018

5 / 5 Stars


Delicate yet richly portrayed account of one family during the Fascist regime in Italy. Loved it.

Every so often, a book comes along that is so well written it makes me quite literally coo over over page. I'm happy to report, this was one such tome, and in addition to the beautiful quality of writing, there was also a compelling plot and some heart-wrenchingly honestly depicted characters too. 


It all starts with Maria, who at 25 is 'past her prime' and is desperate for a husband. Achille, a handsome yet enigmatic man, accepts the position, and she commences her new life, moving to a small town and setting up shop. Several babies (dead and alive) later, you'd think she'd be happy, but all is not well in her marriage, and the war is starting to have an impact on her life. 

The book takes us through her husband's arrest and the desperate, secret measures Maria takes to bring him home again; not to mention the hardship she suffers as war deprivation kicks in. I won't spoil the ending, but it's a lovely conclusion, filled with forgiveness and hope for a better future. 

I absolutely loved the concept of examining the impact of war through the eyes of a religious, fairly traditional Italian woman. While a book about the impact of fascism in Italy, the war is only really a backdrop to the more personal drama of Maria's life, and how her resilience (and religious beliefs) are challenged. 

The author does a fabulous job of bringing to life rural Italy too - I could imagine every part of it in rich detail, and because it's such a gorgeous part of the world, it was a pleasure to do so. Likewise, as we follow Maria through her life, from a young, relatively naive woman to a middle-aged woman with secrets under her belt, we grow with her - and that's always enjoyable in a book. 

If someone had described this book to me, I would have said it wasn't my cup of tea. However, I devoured it all with great pleasure, and as such, I would recommend it heartily to anyone. Lovely stuff.


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