The Madonna of the Mountains
An epic and inspiring novel about one woman's survival in the hardscrabble Italian countryside, oppressed by both a patriarchal society and by Mussolini's iron-fist rule, but determined to protect her family throughout the war--by any means possible.A sweeping saga about womanhood, loyalty, war, religion, family, motherhood, and marriage, The Madonna of the Mountains is set in Italy during the 1920s to the 1950s, and follows its heroine, Maria Vittoria, from her girlhood in the austere Italian mountains through her marriage to a young war veteran to the birth of her four children, through the National Fascist Party Rule and ending with a decision that will forever affect her family. Maria must ensure that her family survives the harsh winters of the war, when food is scarce and allegiances are questioned. She can trust no one and fears everyone--her Fascist cousin, the madwoman from her childhood, her watchful neighbors, the Nazis and the Partisans who show up at her door. Over the decades, as Maria's children grow up and away from her, and as her marriage endures its own hardships, the novel takes us into the mind and heart of one woman who must hold her family together with resilience, love, and faith, in a world where the rules are constantly changing.

The Madonna of the Mountains Details

TitleThe Madonna of the Mountains
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 12th, 2018
PublisherSpiegel & Grau
ISBN-139780399592430
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Cultural, Italy, Fiction

The Madonna of the Mountains Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    4+ stars . There were so many things I loved about this family saga. I’m drawn to books that are set in Italy in the past. Maybe because of my grandparents who were all born in Italy. I love the intermittent Italian phrases. Though I studied it so long ago I never used it enough over the years to remember much of it, but still the beautiful language touches me. I loved the phrases that I found here, especially in the first parts of the book. I loved the advice, the adages as they reminded me of 4+ stars . There were so many things I loved about this family saga. I’m drawn to books that are set in Italy in the past. Maybe because of my grandparents who were all born in Italy. I love the intermittent Italian phrases. Though I studied it so long ago I never used it enough over the years to remember much of it, but still the beautiful language touches me. I loved the phrases that I found here, especially in the first parts of the book. I loved the advice, the adages as they reminded me of things my mother would tell us that my grandfather used to say . She always said , “My father used to say ....” I know I’m digressing, but I was moved by these. This the story of Maria Vittoria who in 1923 was 25, old to be single in that time and waiting for her father to bring back a husband for her . She seems taken with her new husband and vows to be a good wife and mother. She’s happy until it becomes clear that Achille is not the man she thought she had married, but this was a different time and place and she takes what comes. The middle parts of the story are about a time of war, of a time and place when women’s roles were subservient. Yet, we meet a woman who is strong, emotionally and physically and has the gumption to do what it takes to protect her family with the impending war and the spread of fascism. So often in war stories we get the view from the battles, the bombings and I found this depiction of the impact of the war on the people away from that to feel realistic. Maria is not perfect, but there was much to admire about her as she takes control. Her family was everything to her. In that respect she reminded me so much of my mother.I loved the intermittent admonitions, advice and sometimes a look to the future that the author depicts as words of the Madonna. I think these are Maria’s thoughts on what the Madonna would say to her. She is devout but bears the burden of guilt and these thoughts are her compass in moving forward. I’m not going to relate what happens to Maria and her family after the war. I recommend that you read this and discover it for yourself. A satisfying, well written family saga. Another great read with Diane and Esil. As always, thanks for your perspectives. I received an advanced copy of this book from Spiegal & Grau/ Random House through NetGalley.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    The past has a suffocating weight of its own. And the future......air unyet to be breathed.Maria Vittoria's father takes to the mountain paths in 1923 with only his faithful donkey and a well-worn picture of Maria. He has set out to find her a husband along with a dowry long in the making. Maria continues to sit in the small house in Monastero embroidering nuptial bedding with a needle sharp and piercing. Love doesn't seem to fit in the laws of bartering.A determined nature finds Maria and Achil The past has a suffocating weight of its own. And the future......air unyet to be breathed.Maria Vittoria's father takes to the mountain paths in 1923 with only his faithful donkey and a well-worn picture of Maria. He has set out to find her a husband along with a dowry long in the making. Maria continues to sit in the small house in Monastero embroidering nuptial bedding with a needle sharp and piercing. Love doesn't seem to fit in the laws of bartering.A determined nature finds Maria and Achille Montanari betrothed. They begin married life in a tiny room in his parents' home. Privacy seems to be nudged rudely even by the bleating of farm animals in the next room. But by 1928 the young couple have two children and a small shop in the village of Fasso. What isn't in their plans is the rise of the Fascist Party and the pressing demands of allegiance that find Achille torn between protecting his family and staying alive.Elise Valmorbida presents a story that evokes the very strength of International Women's Day. Maria Vittoria's voice is one that begins in a soft whisper and escalates to the roar of an Italian waterfall. Maria steps forward into precarious times ill-prepared at first, but gradually taking on a stance from the very marrow of her bones. As war rears its ugly head in the 30's and 40's, we view the impact of Mussolini, Il Duce, and the intense sufferings it brings: Neighbor against neighbor, families with vying allegiences, food rationing, and body-shaking stress of the bombings. This is why The Madonna of the Mountains spoke so vividly to me. Life never prepares you for what awaits in the coming darkness. And this is the heart-wrenching character of Maria in her early years of naivete. "Not knowing is a kind of happiness"......all before reality opens the door, steps in, and destroys. The Madonna of the Mountains leaves you with that knowledge as you sit with it for awhile. "Men will do what men do." One has no other alternative but to rise with every devastating event in life. It's what we do. It's who we are. Elise Valmorbida writes with that same passion page after page. That's why, dear readers, this is one of my favorites of 2018. "All her tears have been building up in her belly like water in the deepest well."I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House and to the talented Elise Valmorbida for the opportunity.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    The Madonna of the Mountains takes place in Italy from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. The story focuses on Maria, who as a young woman is excited to start her new life with a husband chosen by her family. As the story develops, life is quite harsh for Maria, partially because of her marriage and in large part because of the political climate and WWII.I really liked Madonna of the Mountains. I thought that one of the real strengths of this book is that the story is unvarnished. Maria is not p The Madonna of the Mountains takes place in Italy from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. The story focuses on Maria, who as a young woman is excited to start her new life with a husband chosen by her family. As the story develops, life is quite harsh for Maria, partially because of her marriage and in large part because of the political climate and WWII.I really liked Madonna of the Mountains. I thought that one of the real strengths of this book is that the story is unvarnished. Maria is not portrayed as a romantic figure. Her life is harsh, she has to make difficult choices, and she herself can be quite hard and unbending. But her motivations and emotions seem genuine – survival and love for her children are her prime motivators. The author also does a good job in her portrayal of the times in Italy – complex web of politics within which normal citizens had to carefully navigate their shifting allegiances to survive. As I often say, I don’t always like historical fiction because I often find that it is too romantic or exploitative, but this one definitely worked for me.Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy. And thank you also to my lovely monthly buddy read friends, Angela and Diane, for the opportunity to read this one together. This seems to be one that had all of us interested and engaged.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    I seem to be traveling to Italy quite often in my reading lately. This takes place in a village in the mountains of Italy and span the years from the 1920s to the 1950s. It centers on the trials and trivalis of one family, with a strong in muscle father Achilles and a strong in character mother, Maria. By centering on one familys fate, we are exposed to the harsh realities those in Italy faced during the war. Maria, is a wonderful character, raised to let her husband be the supreme ruler of her I seem to be traveling to Italy quite often in my reading lately. This takes place in a village in the mountains of Italy and span the years from the 1920s to the 1950s. It centers on the trials and trivalis of one family, with a strong in muscle father Achilles and a strong in character mother, Maria. By centering on one familys fate, we are exposed to the harsh realities those in Italy faced during the war. Maria, is a wonderful character, raised to let her husband be the supreme ruler of her household, her life is not simple. He doesn't always treat her kindly,but her love for her children and the strong bonds of family, keep her going. Until an unexpected event,make her the temporary head of her household, a time when their business is failing, not enough food items available to stock the shelves of their grocery. She knows she must do everything possible for the survival of her household, and this leads to an act that will haunt her days and nights. The struggle to find food, trapping small birds with putrid olive oil, lizards, anything they can get to eat to help them survive. This was also a time when neighbor reported on neighbor, when they are caught between the Nazis, the Fascists and the partisans,all wanting food, wanting loyalty. Such difficult times, but Maria tries her hardest to keep her family healthy and intact. This book raises many moral and ethical questions. What would one do to survive, what is one's self worth? Maria faces these questions,maybe not always the supposed right way, but in the only way she can see a life moving forward. She will pay dearly for some of her decisions. Strong religious faith, Maria carries, has with her at all times a statue of the Virgin Mary, and often feels as if Mary speaks to her directly. Condemnation and warnings, words to keep her on track. Since this was our buddy read of the month for Angela,Esil and I we decided it was Marias own conscience that is being portrayed, spoken. We all enjoyed this one, our ratings close to or the same, it was an interesting look at a family dealing with everyday problems but also dealing with the harsher realities of the war years. I didn't feel the ending was as strong as it could be, but I know that this is a journey the authors own family undertook. On the whole a very interesting and well written read.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    "Men make the mess, then women have to clear it up."I loved this. It's a beautifully written book and though its central theme is conflict it's a quiet intimate sensual wise meditative novel which was a joy to read from start to finish. It begins in 1923. Maria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry chest. At twenty-five she is in danger of remaining a spinster. Her father though has gone off to procure her a husband. The uneven balance of power between the sexes is always fabulously observed. Th "Men make the mess, then women have to clear it up."I loved this. It's a beautifully written book and though its central theme is conflict it's a quiet intimate sensual wise meditative novel which was a joy to read from start to finish. It begins in 1923. Maria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry chest. At twenty-five she is in danger of remaining a spinster. Her father though has gone off to procure her a husband. The uneven balance of power between the sexes is always fabulously observed. The one free woman in the village is a mad outcast called Delfina who lives wild and acts as a kind of opposition oracle to the Virgin Mary. Maria's secret life is carried out exclusively through her dialogues with the statue of the Virgin Mary she owns, the Madonna of the mountains. The males in this novel are almost all bullies. Almost all little boys at heart who don't grow up. And yet their power is almost absolute. Until war arrives. When war breaks out the dictatorship of the male becomes more violent, though, conversely, war also causes the males to lose much of their autonomy. The mess men have made of life allows a loophole for the new generation of women to assert themselves with more authority. This is brilliantly dramatized here with the relationship of Maria with her eldest daughter, Amelia. It's one of the best generational spats I've encountered in literature. We see the influence of history reap its changes within the walls of one family home which is achieved with brilliant artistry. Thanks to Angela and Esil for putting this gem on the GR radar with their wonderful reviews.
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  • Lucy Banks
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.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 ' I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.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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  • Annette
    January 1, 1970
    The author skillfully paints a picture of an Italian family: woman’s duties, man’s role, neighbor’s scrutinizing eyes and gossiping lips, families’ feuds. However, the story lacks a background of historical events during WWII. You hardly get to know Mussolini’s regime through this story. My point is the time-period could be presented much better. Besides, the time-period, the story is very well-written and pretty engrossing. Therefore, I left it at 5 stars.Set in Northern Italy, the story spans The author skillfully paints a picture of an Italian family: woman’s duties, man’s role, neighbor’s scrutinizing eyes and gossiping lips, families’ feuds. However, the story lacks a background of historical events during WWII. You hardly get to know Mussolini’s regime through this story. My point is the time-period could be presented much better. Besides, the time-period, the story is very well-written and pretty engrossing. Therefore, I left it at 5 stars.Set in Northern Italy, the story spans between 1920-1950. It starts with a 25 year old Maria, who is already passed a marriageable age, but it’s not her fault that there are no marriageable men in nearby villages. The men were taken by war. But she prays to her icon of the Madonna of the Mountains and continues to hope for a handsome husband. As this is her last straw to get married, her father travels to another valley with her picture to get her a husband. He comes back with a handsome man Maria was praying for. They get married before Easter, a time which rich people pick. She is very proud to be getting married before Easter.With two kids they move to a town of Fosso, where her husband buys a grocery store with living quarters above. Maria hopes for more kids. Under Mussolini’s regime families with six or more kids get released from taxes. She feels sorry for their new neighbor butcher, who is single and paying heavy taxes.At 44 with five kids and two miscarriages, Maria no longer wants to go through another pregnancy. It’s been already three years since the WWII began. Rationing of the food is harsh, not enough for a person or family to survive on. People buy goods at black market to survive despite harsh punishment if caught. Two years later, in 1944, Germany invades Northern Italy. The following year, American forces liberate Southern Italy and move northwards. I didn’t like the character of La Delfina, a madwoman. She didn’t add much to the story. I was glad that she took only a small part at the beginning of the story. But even those few pages should have been given later on to Amelia, Maria’s daughter. A character that stood out to me, a strong-willed young woman, who follows her heart despite her family disapproval. Amelia is so different from her mother, but at the same time you have to give Maria credit for being a strong woman herself; feeding her family through the worst hunger time and keeping her family together. @FB: Best Historical Fiction
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  • Lady Alexandrine
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful family saga! The characters were very well written and felt very real. The Italian family's history and its hardships were shown from 1923 to 1950. The Fascist Era in Italy was so engagingly described, the difficulties of survival in the time of war, especially the fight to conquer hunger were so remarkably well shown that it was hard to put the book down even for a moment.(painting by Caspar David Friedrich - Statue of the Madonna in the Mountains)I enjoyed following the main characte Beautiful family saga! The characters were very well written and felt very real. The Italian family's history and its hardships were shown from 1923 to 1950. The Fascist Era in Italy was so engagingly described, the difficulties of survival in the time of war, especially the fight to conquer hunger were so remarkably well shown that it was hard to put the book down even for a moment.(painting by Caspar David Friedrich - Statue of the Madonna in the Mountains)I enjoyed following the main character Maria Vittoria and her loved ones. At the beginning of the novel Maria Vittoria is nearly 25 years old, hardly marriageable according to her neighbours’ standards and her father goes to a faraway valley to find her a husband. She is excited by the prospect of marriage and prays to a statue of the Madonna of the Mountains for a handsome, good man. It was easy to listen to her voice through the whole story. She proved to be a fascinating, complex character. At the first glance she is a simple, god-fearing, hardworking country girl. But she is also proud and ambitious. She can make difficult choices for her family survival and be strong when it counts. She comes from a patriarchal, small-minded society, that sees women as lesser than men. She loves her husband Achille, but there is a place in her for other dark passion. She would do anything for her children, but it won’t be easy for her when her daughter Amelia goes against her will and the will of the family. The character I liked most was Amelia, Maria Vittoria’s daughter. She was intelligent and independent, able to take risks and find her own way. On the other hand, Duilio, a Maria Vittoria’s cousin was a dark presence in the book, it was surprising how much evil he could do. I didn’t like him or his actions at all, but he made the story more interesting. (picture from the National Geographic Magazine, Volume 31 (1917), p. 550)What I loved the most about this book was the language. The novel is beautifully written and full of engaging, remarkable details like doing the spring laundry in the village, the art of making silk from silkworms’ cocoons, looking for food in unexpected placed when faced with hunger. Maybe it sounds banal, but it was written in such a way that I was hanging on every word. By the writing of Elise Valmorbida even doing the laundry, feeding silkworms with mulberry leaves and searching for lizards hidden under stones became fascinating topics. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone! I recommend it especially for readers interested in family sagas and Italian history.I received "The Madonna of the Mountains" from the publisher via NetGalley. I would like to thank the author and the publisher for providing me with the advance reader copy of the book.
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Her heart is trapped. Her mouth is dry. Words spill out before she knows it. “Please, dear God, make him good and handsome.”“Stupid girl, ” her mother says. “When the children are hungry, they won’t cry Papà, belo, they’ll cry Papà, pan!” Yes, its bread they’ll want, not looks, but Maria can’t help herself. She has waited so long.'Men are scarce and at twenty-five Maria is fast arriving at a nearly unmarriageable age. The story begins with her via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Her heart is trapped. Her mouth is dry. Words spill out before she knows it. “Please, dear God, make him good and handsome.”“Stupid girl, ” her mother says. “When the children are hungry, they won’t cry Papà, belo, they’ll cry Papà, pan!” Yes, its bread they’ll want, not looks, but Maria can’t help herself. She has waited so long.'Men are scarce and at twenty-five Maria is fast arriving at a nearly unmarriageable age. The story begins with her father leaving on his mule with food and her photograph to find her a good husband. She is a pretty, strong, healthy and a good, pious daughter- everything worthy of having as a wife. With so many men absent due to the war, he has no choice but to look elsewhere. Living in the Italian countryside is hard, the war is on and Mussolini rules with an ‘iron-fist’, people go hungry. Marriage for love isn’t vital to survive, in a sense it is a business deal so when Maria sets eyes on her husband to be she is happy to learn he is strong and easy on the eyes. There will be no hunchback for her, praise God! She will keep home and make children, all will be happy and right with the world. She no longer has to fear becoming La Delfina, the madwoman who “howls to the moon like a wild dog”. Oh no, she will have a husband, a family, a future! She will not be a mad wandering spinster. With lines like “show him your teeth”, when meeting her suitor, it’s easy to rebel at the reality women faced in a patriarchy.Each choice made by Maria Vittoria and her husband Achille, a veteran of war with scars and tales of his own, are for the betterment and survival of their children to come. The more children they have, the more money they make. They move, open a grocery store and fall into disgrace. When Maria is in a desperate situation, she will do anything to save her husband, to keep food in her children’s bellies. There is a cousin, one she once had tender feelings for who may be able to help her. But that too is a dangerous decision, and from there his own darkness, and her feelings expose the struggle during times of war, when no one is to be trusted and neighbors whispered suspicions can be life or death, freedom or imprisonment and disrupt love between husband and wife.Imprisonment, brutality, and broken men returned who will never again be head of the household, young daughters that ache for a different life, who want to marry for love, not caring for family approval, the terror and hope of immigrating, of escape, our Maria will know all of these things. She will be tested as a wife, and as a mother. Discovering secrets of her husband’s past are enough to wound her, are truths she will never be able to ‘not know’. It’s a coming of age in a sense, a hopeful young woman with a hunger from romance that is forced to grow up and lose so much (her dreams, her children). Times of war don’t allow for selfishness, for romantic liaisons nor salvation, because everything costs you something, someone is always watching and no one is judged more than a woman, a mother.There is no such thing as lying low, as not chosing sides. Who do you trust, your own people, those who invade, others who liberate you? How do you save face with a husband you betrayed in order to save? Can praying to the Madonna of the mountains protect and heal Maria? Will she be forgiven her sins? Can she keep a bowed head while suffering abuse? Does she deserve it for the sins she committed? Miscarriages, births, deaths, love, lies, motherhood -there is a lot going on in this novel. Through war, there is still family complications, and everything is about survival. It’s a harsh reality about an Italian woman during a horrible period of hunger and war; how she loses innocence and hope but stays alive, with sin and without, and keeps her family safe, but it costs her plenty, and her soul is often under scrutiny, by others as much as herself.Publication Date: June 12, 2018Random HouseSpiegel & Grau
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  • Tami
    January 1, 1970
    What a coincidence that I would read this book right around the time my new neighbors moved in next door. They are Italians from Australia and they told me their grandparents immigrated there from Italy and the area they grew up in was full of Italians.In Madonna of the Mountains, the story spans from the 1920’s to the 1950’s and portrays the life of a young woman, Maria Vittoria, who is from the mountains of Italy. The story paints a rich and vivid picture of Italian culture and the unstable ec What a coincidence that I would read this book right around the time my new neighbors moved in next door. They are Italians from Australia and they told me their grandparents immigrated there from Italy and the area they grew up in was full of Italians.In Madonna of the Mountains, the story spans from the 1920’s to the 1950’s and portrays the life of a young woman, Maria Vittoria, who is from the mountains of Italy. The story paints a rich and vivid picture of Italian culture and the unstable economy and political climate during those years. Readers follow Maria as she marries, moves away and runs a market with her husband, Achille. They start a family and do fairly well until World War II. They endure difficult times during the war years, but this is not a story about labor camps or exterminations.This is the story a marriage, of how to endure and how to forgive. I really enjoyed reading this and the look into Italian life during that time was so authentic that I could easily picture it in my mind.Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the opportunity to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
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  • Victoria Sadler
    January 1, 1970
    It’s always nice to get a great recommendation for a book that maybe would have passed you by, and that’s exactly the case for The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida. This is such an elegant, evocative piece of historical fiction that follows Maria, a woman living a hard life in the Italian countryside in the 1920s, over three decades of her life – through periods of fascism, war and communist revolt – and the struggles she endures to keep herself and her family alive. This is a book a It’s always nice to get a great recommendation for a book that maybe would have passed you by, and that’s exactly the case for The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida. This is such an elegant, evocative piece of historical fiction that follows Maria, a woman living a hard life in the Italian countryside in the 1920s, over three decades of her life – through periods of fascism, war and communist revolt – and the struggles she endures to keep herself and her family alive. This is a book about hope and fortitude, yes, but this is also about the resilience of women, the complexity of families, and how reality will always scupper those dreams we hold on to so tightly.
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  • Kathryn
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book. It's always such fun to win a book. This book covered some horrific things during World War II but the author had such a gentle touch with all of it. It started in 1923 and ended in 1950 with so much that went on at that time. I definitely recommend this story if you like historical fiction.
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  • Nicola
    January 1, 1970
    This book is set in Italy, before and during the Second World War and tells the story of Maria and her life in the mountains of the Italian countryside. The story starts with a twenty five year old Maria who is waiting for her father to return from his mission to the local villages to find her a husband as she is nearly at an ‘unmarriageable age’. With few men around, it has been a hard task for her father, but on this latest trip he returns with a man that he deems is suitable for Maria.Life be This book is set in Italy, before and during the Second World War and tells the story of Maria and her life in the mountains of the Italian countryside. The story starts with a twenty five year old Maria who is waiting for her father to return from his mission to the local villages to find her a husband as she is nearly at an ‘unmarriageable age’. With few men around, it has been a hard task for her father, but on this latest trip he returns with a man that he deems is suitable for Maria.Life begins for Maria and Achille (her husband) and with the war taking hold it is a hard life; they encounter hunger, imprisonment and violence. The character of Maria really grows and you see her change from an innocent young lady to the matriarch of her family dealing with many pressures along the way.Although this isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, the author did a fantastic job of characterisation and I really enjoyed it.
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  • Sandra
    January 1, 1970
    What a great novel about an Italian family trying to survive life. The story takes place in the 1920's until the 1950's, twenty five years of Maria's life. The main character is Maria Vittoria, a very strong, faith based, determined woman. The beginning of the story starts with Maria at 25 years old. At this age most are considered un-marriageable and destined to be a spinster. Maria's father is determined to marry Maria off. Men are scarce at this time, so her father takes his one donkey, food What a great novel about an Italian family trying to survive life. The story takes place in the 1920's until the 1950's, twenty five years of Maria's life. The main character is Maria Vittoria, a very strong, faith based, determined woman. The beginning of the story starts with Maria at 25 years old. At this age most are considered un-marriageable and destined to be a spinster. Maria's father is determined to marry Maria off. Men are scarce at this time, so her father takes his one donkey, food and a photograph of his daughter to a far away valley to find her a husband. Maria, being Catholic, prays to the Madonna, which she has a figurine of and she carries with her. She is so distressed she does not realize she is praying aloud “Please, dear God, make him good and handsome.” “Stupid girl, her mother says. “When the children are hungry, they won't cry Papa, belo, they'll cry Papa, pan!” This book is about womanhood, family, motherhood and marriage. But it contains so much more. The strength that Maria needs to survive the challenges of war, poverty, and starvation.The author will take you on an unforgettable journey.I received a copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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  • Wilma
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway. It's not the genre I usually read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the story of a young woman, Maria Vittoria, who is 25 and almost too old to marry. The first war has not left many young men to marry, especially in her small mountain village so her father sets off with her picture to find her a suitable mate. He comes back with a tall, handsome stranger and she is thrilled. They marry and set off to live with his parents in another village. Life is very I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway. It's not the genre I usually read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the story of a young woman, Maria Vittoria, who is 25 and almost too old to marry. The first war has not left many young men to marry, especially in her small mountain village so her father sets off with her picture to find her a suitable mate. He comes back with a tall, handsome stranger and she is thrilled. They marry and set off to live with his parents in another village. Life is very hard for them at first and they lose two infants; but eventually they have 5 children and due to hard work they have been able to buy a shop and some land. Then the Nazis come and everyone is afraid. Although her husband is tall, strong and abusive, she is the real backbone of the family and works tirelessly to take care of and hold the family together. This story is really about her struggles over 30 years to provide a better life for her family.
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  • Rosie Amber
    January 1, 1970
    The Madonna Of The Mountains is cultural fiction set during twenty-five years of Maria Vittoria’s life. The book opens in 1923, in a mountainous Italian village. Maria is twenty-five years old, almost too old to marry, but few eligible men are left after war and Spanish flu. Maria’s father searches for a husband for his daughter; he returns with Achille, and the pair begin their married life. Both are hard-working and they move to a small town where they buy a grocery shop.The Second World War y The Madonna Of The Mountains is cultural fiction set during twenty-five years of Maria Vittoria’s life. The book opens in 1923, in a mountainous Italian village. Maria is twenty-five years old, almost too old to marry, but few eligible men are left after war and Spanish flu. Maria’s father searches for a husband for his daughter; he returns with Achille, and the pair begin their married life. Both are hard-working and they move to a small town where they buy a grocery shop.The Second World War years are very hard, and they now have five children. Owning a grocery shop helps with food shortages, but they are still vulnerable to political battles. Maria’s driving force is to keep her family safe and fed. When the war ends, Maria and her family face new trials as Italy rebuilds itself and finds new leaders.See here for full review https://wp.me/p2Eu3u-beF
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  • Rich
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent work of historical fiction. The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida takes you to a place not often seen in the genre - 1920-1950 Northern Italy during the rise and fall of Mussolini and the events and horrors of World War II. The story follows a large Italian family during the times leading up to, during, and after World War II and all of the struggles they had to endure. Given from the perspective of Maria, the matriarch of a family central to their mountain town, you watch a Excellent work of historical fiction. The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida takes you to a place not often seen in the genre - 1920-1950 Northern Italy during the rise and fall of Mussolini and the events and horrors of World War II. The story follows a large Italian family during the times leading up to, during, and after World War II and all of the struggles they had to endure. Given from the perspective of Maria, the matriarch of a family central to their mountain town, you watch as her life progresses from suitable bride-to-be to strong leader of her own family. The story is well written all of the characters are well-rounded, I enjoyed this book very much. Well done, 5 stars.
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  • Luis Cuesta
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book as a Goodreads GIveaway. I enjoyed reding it becuase is a convincing portrait of an Italian family struggling during the second World War. The main character is a woman called Maria Vittoria that along her life years see fascists, partisans, Nazis, and Americans pass through while she prays and dreams about emigration. Elise Valmorbida wiritng style fits quite well to develop the wartime horrors endured by the characters and she is able to raise moral and ethical questions t I received this book as a Goodreads GIveaway. I enjoyed reding it becuase is a convincing portrait of an Italian family struggling during the second World War. The main character is a woman called Maria Vittoria that along her life years see fascists, partisans, Nazis, and Americans pass through while she prays and dreams about emigration. Elise Valmorbida wiritng style fits quite well to develop the wartime horrors endured by the characters and she is able to raise moral and ethical questions that propel the story beyond the particulars into the universal.
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  • Sally
    January 1, 1970
    The Madonna of the Mountains follows the life of Maria Vittoria from 1923 in the Italian countryside, when her father has brought home the man she will marry to the 1950’s, when her family emigrates to Australia. The story moves from the little village where Maria grew up to the town where she and husband are shopkeepers. It follows her through the birth of her children, the rise of the National Fascist Party and the Second World War.The Madonna of the Mountains has been described as “A sweeping The Madonna of the Mountains follows the life of Maria Vittoria from 1923 in the Italian countryside, when her father has brought home the man she will marry to the 1950’s, when her family emigrates to Australia. The story moves from the little village where Maria grew up to the town where she and husband are shopkeepers. It follows her through the birth of her children, the rise of the National Fascist Party and the Second World War.The Madonna of the Mountains has been described as “A sweeping saga about womanhood, religion, loyalty, war, family, motherhood, and marriage.” It is all that, to be sure, but it is surprisingly unsatisfying. Maria’s religion plays a large part in her life, and she talks to and receives guidance from the Madonna. But Maria’s God and the Madonna are harsh and unforgiving, and that is how Maria is. She is superstitious and suspicious and displays no joy or hope except perhaps in the time right before her marriage. Even realizing the time and the place and how young women were raised, it is still hard to identify with or become involved in Maria’s story.It’s a melancholy story, more like a dry history lesson or a biography. The descriptions of the political times are very precise and detailed. The descriptions of the landscape are vivid and make you feel you are there. The book is full of interesting details with a well-written narrative, but there is no heart to the story. We don’t ever feel we know the characters. None of the them, including Maria, really engage you, or by the time they do it’s really too late for you to much care.Thanks to NetGalley for providing this book and inviting me to write an honest review.
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  • Andrea Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher. The book takes place in Italy and tracks the story of one family as they try to survive WWII. It has some tender moments along with the terrible ones. I found it to be somewhat exhausting.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Good read for devout Catholic teens/women, those with Italian ancestry, historical fiction lovers, those who strive to be strong women but feel they’ve failed, those who fell women are stronger than men. Good characterizations.
  • Gail O'Connor
    January 1, 1970
    A woman finding her way in a man's world in WWII. It was very well written, but I couldn't find a spark in the characters for me to latch on to. It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be.
  • Lizenbyl
    January 1, 1970
    A moving saga about a multi-generational family from pre-World War II in Italy and their immigration to Australia to start a new life in 1950. Book was very well written and enjoyable.
  • Mrsk Stephen
    January 1, 1970
    The Madonna of the Mountains, by Elisa Valmorbida, is a historical novel set in a time and place that is rarely seen in works of fiction – Italy from the 1920's until the 1950's. A time in history that saw Italian royalty come and go, the rise and fall of Mussolini, Fascists, WWII, Partisians, poverty, hunger, bombings, arrests, American liberation . . . so much drama in one country, it is truly a nation in turmoil. Valmorbida embraces this turmoil and adds to it fiercely Catholic characters to The Madonna of the Mountains, by Elisa Valmorbida, is a historical novel set in a time and place that is rarely seen in works of fiction – Italy from the 1920's until the 1950's. A time in history that saw Italian royalty come and go, the rise and fall of Mussolini, Fascists, WWII, Partisians, poverty, hunger, bombings, arrests, American liberation . . . so much drama in one country, it is truly a nation in turmoil. Valmorbida embraces this turmoil and adds to it fiercely Catholic characters to tell the story of one woman, Maria Vittoria, whose only constant is a religious icon – the Madonna of the Mountains. From the time Maria Vittoria is a young maiden she prays to the Madonna to intervene in her life so it will be happy and fulfilled. Initially she envisions marriage her utopia but as life happens her prayers change to reflect her reality. Valmorbida employs a technique I have never come across before. When Maria Vittoria prays to the Madonna she is answered, with words that are spoken directly to her. As we watch Maria trudge through her life we see how her prayers are changed yet, without fail, the Madonna always answers her with the words she needs to hear. Valmorbida takes us through the drama of marriage, child birth, spousal abuse, running a business, the loss of babies, black marketeering, sleeping with the enemy, disowning one's own child, saying goodbye and immigration with the constancy of both the natural seasons and the Church's seasons keeping time in the background. There is so much packed into this novel, it will keep you thinking far after you have finished the book. A working knowledge of the Catholic church may enhance your understanding of the plot line. Recommended reading.
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  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    Goodreads Giveaway received, full review will be added shortly.
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