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I have WWII on my mind lately. There is a reunion at the base near here for WWII veterans.


I read the Christabel B. book years ago and found it riveting but frightening; I was quite young, probably 12 or 13, and my Mom was on a WWII reading binge and didn't always take my age into account when she passed on books. I have some other books of this type at home and will send you titles later in the week when we return home from the cottage. I learned a lot, plus how much I didn't know, about Italy in WWII when I read The Villa Triste earlier this year.


These look to be quite interesting.We tend to think of war in terms of soldiers and governments and not so much the citizens so greatly affected by it all. I do hope you will tell us more as you read on.

By the way, I'm in the middle of The Return of Captain John Emmett and really enjoying it (though it is now due at the library, sigh).


Kailana--It's interesting how some local event will spark an interest in a reading topic. Not sure what spurred mine--probably when I started reading History, which is set during WWII and from a slightly different perspective than normal.
Cathy--I think I must have read it first when I was in college but have forgotten so much of it. It's kind of cool that your mom liked to pass books on to you when you were young--but a book about war experiences--even as a civilian might indeed have been very disturbing. It was made into a film--did you ever see it? I look forward to your suggestions--thanks! And The Villa Triste is at the top of my pile-I would start it now only it is a longish read and I need to finish a few other books first! Something to look forward to though!
Penny--I think I am settled into the book and will definitely share as I go--nonfiction can be really hard to write about and it's nice to break the posts into several smaller ones. I like reading about what it was like on the homefront--in England and Europe civilians were really impacted by the fighting so it's interesting reading about what life was like for them. I hope you get to finish Captain John Emmett--drat those due dates! No renewals for it?

Nancy Dwinell

I recently read On Hitler's Mountain by Irmagard Hunt. Like Penny said, we tend to think of war in terms of politics and battles. I'm finding that I like to read about everyday people coping during wartime, especially ordinary people on the "other" side.I have Iris Origo on my list of authors to look for.


I reviewed an eccellent British TV movie recently "Housewife, 49" based on Nella Last's wartime diaries. I read the book is much better but I loved the film. I bought the book and either will read it soon or start next year's Literature and War Readalong with it. I think those diaries are not known enough but people would love it.
I wouldn't mind reading the Italian one you got.
I liked that I learned so much from "History".


These books sound so interesting, although I confess I don't have any recommendations for you. I'm so ignorant when it comes to history! I love reading about social history, though, and perhaps eventually I'll get better informed. You remind me, though, that I've got several Italian novels I was hoping to read this autumn. Must get on with that...

Liz F

I knew very little about WW2 in Italy despite having studied the period at school and it was only after reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin which talks about the plight of Italian troops sent to the Greek mountains in winter with only summer uniforms, boots that fell apart in the wet and very few supplies, that I started to investigate a bit more.
Iris Origo's book is an eye opener but I would also recommend Eric Newby's Love and War in the Apennines about his experiences as a British soldier in Italy and Naples '44 by Norman Lewis about his experiences as an Intelligence officer based there at a time when life was pretty grim for the Italians.
Fictionwise I am about to start reading A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell about villagers who sheltered Jewish refugees from the Germans. Reprisals against ordinary people and the partisans, particularly in Tuscany and Umbria, were every bit as horrific as those against the French, but we don't hear as much about it.
You could also read Carlo Lucarelli's Di Luca Trilogy, which is set at the end of the war and in the period immediately after it, and gives a vivid picture of the chaos that reigned as people tried to pick up the pieces.
As you can probably tell, it's a subject that really interests me (I think you know that I'm an Italophile of long standing, Danielle!) but I am reading more widely about it as my daughter is doing Italian at A-Level and hopes to go on to study it at University, and I am researching books which would be useful to her as well!


I absolutely love pairing reads like this. It adds to both reading experiences I think.

The only one I've got online is this:
Vere Hodgson’s Few Eggs and No Oranges:1940-45 Persephone No. 9 (1999)
Mathilde Wolff-Monckeberg’s On the Other Side:Letters to My Children:From Germany 1940-1946 Persephone No. 75 (2007).

It was an amazing experience (especially with the other "wartime" reads/views I slotted into that week) and I'm sure you'll find the same with your choices!


Re: Captain Emmet. It was a one week, new book loan with a waiting list. I'm now breaking the library loan law, may have to go into hiding for the duration, but, will finish it and pay the piper, head down, penitent.

Have you read Chocolate Cake With Hitler? It is a short novel, set in Hitler's bunker during the final days of the war told through the eyes of a child.


A couple of weeks ago I sort of paired reading Edith Velmans-Van Hessen Edith's Story (A True Story of a Young Girl's Courage and Survival During WWII) with Kathrine Kressmann Taylor Address Unknown(1939). I came to do so because both books - one a memoir, the other in the form of letters - have the slow but inescapable unfolding of Nazi wartime atrocities and the changing initial disbelief in common.

Mary Grover

If you are interested in more books set in Italy during WWII I can recommend "A Thread of Grace" a novel by Mary Doria Russell. And years ago I read an autobiographical work by Nobel Prize winner (in Medicine) Rita Levi-Montalcini. I checked for a title since I didn't remember it and it must have been "In Praise of Imperfection." She tells of continuing to do her scientific research while in hiding.


I don't have any memoirs to recommend but you mind find the novel Obasan by Joy Kogawa worth a look. She is Japanese-Canadian and the book is based on her experience of Japanese relocation in Canada.


Oh, thank you, thank you. I have been trying and trying to remember Christabel Bielenberg's name. For so long, I have wanted to read her books, especially the one you mentioned. The University of Nebraska Press has resurrected some wonderful titles that have gone out of print, including works in translation, which Bielenberg's is not, of course.

I enjoyed this post AND everyone's comments. They are rich, indeed, in book descriptions and titles of books I want to check into.

Just the thing for my Thursday evening (last workday of the week).

Keep reading!
Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


YES! I do this too, though I haven't done it for a while. I think it's a great way to consolidate what you learn--and remember it better.


Nancy--I am pretty sure I have On Hitler's Mountain. I was on a WWII binge several years ago and planned on reading it but I think I must have had my fill of books and moved on. That's another great idea and will have to search for my copy. I'm very much enjoying the Origo and learning lots of interesting things.
Caroline--I hope you do pick the Nella Last book--my library has two of her diaries--we got them in earlier this year and I noted them down but haven't had a chance to check them out--this would be the perfect excuse to read her. I hadn't realized a film had been made out of her story so will have to look for that, too. Between the Origo and the Morante I, too, am learning lots about Italy during this period.
Litlove--I like reading social history, too! I like this sort of history as well--told through a memoir or diary. I'm curious which Italian novels you have to read and look forward to hearing about them!
Liz--I don't know much either--having read mostly about the American or British experiences as well a bit about France and Germany, but have read virtually nothing else. I also read Corelli's Mandolin--twice and have forgotten it is about Italian troops in Greece--I loved the book, however and will have to perhaps read it again. Thanks for the suggestions--I already have the first two books of the De Luca trilogy, but the rest are all new to me. I will have to make a little online shopping excursion I fear... :)
BuriedinPrint--I often do this as well though I don't think I've ever talked about it--it's a matter of one book leading to the next it seems. I love your idea--my library has Few Eggs and No Oranges--but I forgot about On the Other Side--you're right they would make excellent companion reads--I think I will have to borrow your idea.
Penny--For a while I was racking up fines on books that I was so close to finishing--if only I could have an extra day or two. I felt bad about the next person in line waiting, but I hated the idea of returning the books unfinished and having to get back in line for them. Bad behavior on my part but what do you do when you are so...close...? I have actually not heard of Chocolate Cake with Hitler--I will have to look it up, thanks for the suggestion! I'm intrigued by the title.
Catharina--I love reading books of letters but don't seem to do so very often. I like the sound of both the books you mention!
Mary Grover--I read MDR's first book--unusual story but very well done. How did I miss this one? I have requested it from my public library--thanks. I'll be checking out the other book you mention as well!
Stefanie--I will add Obasan to my list. I've only read Farewell to Manzanar which also deals with internment camps--another example of the upheavals of war--though one you don't expect in north america since the war was fought on the other side of the globe!
Judith--Isn't it nice when you find the title of a book that has been plaguing you as you can't remember it? I read it ages ago and recall finding it a fascinating read--I'm glad UNP has reissued it and it is readily available. I'd like to reread it! I've found all these recommendations very helpful, too, and have already requested a few from the library! Have a great weekend--I'm ready for it to come as well!
Kathy--I like learning some other aspect of a topic when I read a book that strikes me as particularly interesting. I like being able to add more to the reading experience as well--and yes, I remember a little more detail as well.

Dani, you ask for books and I give you film. Hope you don't mind. Director Martin Scorsese made a documentary awhile back about the Italian films that influenced him. It is a looooong documentary, but worth the effort: My Voyage to Italy.

If you only had time to see one Italian film about the German occupation, the classic is Rossellini's Rome, Open City, made just months after the war. It is gut-wrenching, intense, brilliant, a defining film of the neo-realism movement.



Readramble/Fay--I'm quite happy with film suggestions as well! I will see if Netflix has them and add them to my queue. I was actually thinking I might look for some Italian films so this is wonderful. I've been reading the Origo book and am finding it hard to put down so am quite interested now to learn more about what life was like in Italy during this period. Thanks!

Dorothy W.

I don't usually read books that are connected to each other at all, so it's unusual for me to have read the entire Little House series, plus two nonfiction books about them (one of which I'm in the middle of now). I like it! Perhaps I should do more of this kind of thing.


Dorothy--I like the idea of reading pairs, though I think about it more than do it, it seems. One of my coworkers is also reading the Little House books and between the two of you I am getting tempted to reread them myself. The nonfiction books you've written about sound good as well!

Alexandre Borovik

I would recommend Alexander's Solzhenitsyn's In the First Circle,, coupled with its mirror image, Lev Kopelev's Ease My Sorrows, These books are a novel and a memoir written by the principal character of the novel about the novel's author -- they both took part in the same fantastic, unbelievable, but real life drama. Perhaps it is worth adding that translations into English are quite decent, the originals are well written -- this is perhaps the best novel by Solzhenitsyn (after all, a Nobel Prize winner), while Kopelev was a prominent linguist and historian of world literature.


I don't think I go out of my way to pair books up but in some kind of serindipity it tends to happen anyway!

WWII is one of my favourite periods to read about anyway so this happens quite regularly too.


Alexandre Borovik--Thanks so much for your suggestion. I've not yet read Solzhenitsyn--he's always sounded a little daunting to me, but I really should try him. My library has First Circle, but a different translation. Unfortunately the link for the Kopelev didn't work--my library doesn't have it, but perhaps I should put in a book request.... I seem to be in a WWII mode, and am always looking to expand my horizons.
Marg--I think about doing it more than I actually do it--most of the time it's serendipity, too! I've been reading more WWI literature lately, but have now switched modes a little.

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