'Moorehead paints a wonderfully vivid and moving portrait of the women of the Italian Resistance' MAX HASTINGS, SUNDAY TIMES
The extraordinary story of the courageous women who spearheaded the Italian Resistance during the Second World War
In the late summer of 1943, in the midst of German occupation, the Italian Resistance was born.
Ada, Frida, Silvia and Bianca were four young women who signed up. Living in the mountains surrounding Turin their contribution was invaluable. They carried messages and weapons, provided safe houses and took prisoners. As thousands of Italians rose up, they fought to liberate their country.
With its corruption, greed and anti-Semitism, the fall of Fascist Italy was unrelentingly violent, but for the partisan women it was also a time of camaraderie and equality, pride and optimism. Through the stories of these four exceptional women, the resolve, tenacity and, above all, courage of the Italian Resistance is laid bare.
A Spectator Book of the Year
Historian Moorehead (A Bold and Dangerous Family) concludes her Resistance Quartet with an overly dense account of the role Italian partisans, many of them women, played in helping the Allies win WWII. Contending that the story of female resistance fighters has long been neglected, Moorehead focuses on four women from the Piedmont region and begins their story in 1943, when the sudden overthrow of Benito Mussolini's government in Rome led to tightened German control over Northern Italy and fomented rebellion in the region. "Fascism had trapped them in domesticity and segregation," Moorehead writes of women who joined the resistance as couriers, lookouts, and weapons smugglers, but their new lives gave them "the chance to decide their own fates." Ada Gobetti held secret meetings at her house in Turin and helped to establish contacts between Italian Resistance leaders and French and British military officials. Bianca Serra organized antifascist action committees in the city's factories and edited underground newspapers. Female partisans hoped to achieve a long list of reforms in postwar Italy, including paid maternity leave and equal wages, but their hopes were mainly dashed, according to Moorehead. She uncovers many fascinating stories, but she bogs the narrative down with secondary characters and accounts of well-known events. History buffs will wish this promising account had a sharper focus.