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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone who loves Italy, January 2, 2012
A MUST READ for Italophiles! This book gives a wonderful inside look into Italy during WWII. It is Iris Origo's personal diary while living through this time is history. It is astounding to realize the love and concern that she and her husband extended to the Italian people that lived and worked for them. She describes daily events, caring for children, helping escaped Allied prisoners, all of the hardships and events that were part of her life there in Italy. THis book is so moving that it prompted me to go in search of her home, La Foce in Tuscany, to see her house and gardens, walk the paths she walked and see the small cemetery where she and her husband are buried. I highly recommend this book and also her book, Images and Shadows. I only wish I could have met her!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living History in Val d'Orcia, August 22, 2012
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I read War in Val d'Orcia before visiting La Foce Gardens and farm, where Iris Origo and her family lived during World War II. The book is written in such a way as to bring the reader present during the war, and to share the perils of the neighborhood. Our visit to La Foce was so much more meaningful due to this background. It was doubly thrilling to discover that our tour guide was a member of the family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To Rate With Stars Is An Injustice, November 3, 2013
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There are no stars to capture the intimacy, the "keep calm and carry on" of this excellent work. I bought it several years ago as I was leaving Florence; did not read it until I was in Bologna last month. As there are multiple references to bombings in Bologna, I made special note in the Theatre of Anatomy in Bologna of the photos of the destruction and reconstruction of just that room. Also of the permanent memorial of individual photos of the Italian Resistance. Mrs Origo's voice rings with passion, dispassion, gleaming shards of humor; her eye is all-observing and she sees the catastrophe of war to all whom it hit - all nationalities, all groups. She reflects on the management of doing without, on the high-risk generosity by the Italian peasants to Allied soldiers; she notes the boredom, the "relaxation" eventually encountered when all control was out of their hands. The book is poundingly real...not just for the area Mrs Origo writes of in WWII, but the bombs, the killings, the physical and moral outrages worldwide since, now, and forever. Mrs Origo indeed brings home the necessity for having tattooed on everyone's forehead John Donne's "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..." Even though the introduction to the Diary makes clear the outcome of the events, I kept wondering what would happen next, how it would all end; many times I had to remind myself that I was not reading fiction, but the stuff of real, everyday life in a warzone: that is how well-written, how unselfish and non-narcissistic a book it is. This is one of those books that I recommend, but will never lend my copy. I would be unhappy to have it off my bookshelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it you will love it!, August 18, 2013
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This review is from: War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 (Hardcover)
This is a wonderful telling of one woman's life during 1943-1944 in Italy. The story is old. I came across the title while reading "The Light in the Ruins" by Chris Bohjalian. He was inspired by War in Val D'Orcia to write his book. I am now reading Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val D'Orcia. Both Books are great reads.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic memoir of WW2, November 25, 2014
It is remarkable that one of the finest memoirs to come out out World War II was written, not by a soldier, general, politician, nor even by a man. I refer to Iris Origo's classic War in Val d'Orcia: An Italian War Diary 1943-1944, which was first published in 1947.

Marchesa Iris Origo was an Englishwoman married to a Italian landowner with an estate in southern Tuscany. Her father was an American who had died from tuberculosis when she was eight years old. As a girl, she had lived for a time on Long Island. Her husband, Antonio, was committed to bringing modern farm techniques that would transform Tuscan agriculture. His ambitions were interrupted by Mussolini's fatal entry into the war on the Axis side in 1940.

In 1943, seventy years ago this year, Allied forces invaded first Sicily, and then the rest of Italy. Origo's diary conveys with a startling immediacy the manifold threats faced by those living in Italy during the Second World War. Italy endured devastating Allied bombing, particularly of its Northern industrial cities. Origo's Tuscan farm took in child refugees whose parents were working in cities such as Genoa and Turin. Later the war came directly to her own world as the fighting raged through the Tuscan countryside. Germans and Italian fascists were suspicious of Origo's English connections, while communist partisans suspicious of her family wealth. There were German soldiers and, later, German deserters hoping to survive. There were downed Allied airmen seeking food and refuge. In spite of the risks and costs the Origo farm took them all in.

The Origo household was not untouched by the war. A stray shell kills their beloved gardener Gigi. Many nearby Italian women are raped, allegedly by colored troops of the French Fifth Army. The Origo farm, however, managed to deal with them all and to survive.

Iris Origo was neither a historian nor a journalist; she was a compassionate woman, a keen observer, a diarist and a survivor. She was a witness to history and her diary offers a daily phenomenology of the Second World war. It also contains a psychology of the lies soldiers often tell themselves in order to endure.

Origo takes note of the ongoing holocaust against Jews in Italy during the war. She relates the courageous tale of the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal della Costa. "When some of his nuns were arrested, in consequence of having given shelter to some Jewish women in their convent , the Cardinal, putting on his full panoply went straight to the German Command. 'I have come to you, ' he said, 'because I believe you, as soldiers to b e people who recognize authority and hierarchy -- and who do not make subordinated responsible for merely carrying out orders. The order to give shelter to those unfortunate Jewish women was given by me: therefore I request you to free the nuns, who have merely carried out orders, and to arrest me in their stead.' The German immediately gave orders for the nuns to be freed, but permitted himself to state his surprise that a man like the Cardinal should take under his protection such people as the Jews, the scum of Europe, responsible for all the evils of the present day. The Cardinal did not enter upon the controversy. 'I look upon them,' he said, 'merely as persecuted human beings; as such it is my Christian duty to help and defend them. One day,' he gave himself the pleasure of adding, 'perhaps not far off you will be persecuted and than I shall defend you!'"

On February 8, 1944 she tells us that the German Consul opposes the looting of Florence that some German soldiers soldiers favor. This is the very same heroic Gerhard Wolf who may have saved the Ponte Vecchio.

The Greek poet Aeschylus wrote, "In war, truth is the first casualty." In 1943-44 Origo and her family, unsatisfied with the propaganda spewed out by Mussolini's Fascist state, were desperate to learn the truth about the progress of the war. They listened clandestinely and at great risk to BBC radio broadcasts. They also digested reports from various Axis and Allied combatants.

On June 16, 1944, soon after D-day Origo comments on the morale of German soldiers who have been billeted on her farm. "As to the general morale, they are all quite frankly tired of the war and of five years away from their houses and families, appalled by the bombing of Germany, and depressed by the turn of events here and in France. But there is not one of them who does not still express his blind conviction that Germany cannot be beaten, and their equally blind belief in a terrible Vergeltung ("Retribution") against England, which is close at hand. What form it will take, they say, they do not know, but the Fuhrer has promised it to them and he has never yet failed to keep promises to his own people."

On June 18, 1944 Origo is disturbed to hear "terrible news from England". "In the late afternoon, as we are standing by a trench, a sergeant comes up and tells Antonio with glee that die Vergeltung is going on splendidly. The details, he says, come from the neutral radio, Swiss and Swedish. They say that it has been going on steadily since the 15th, and that the whole of London and the south coast is aflame. There is no possibility of the landing in France continuing, and the troops there will be encircled. 'What wouldn't I give to see it!' he cries. I feel sick and blind with misery, and go back to the house. Oh, England, England!"

On June 29th, 1944 her farm was finally liberated by British troops from the Eighth Army. She was reassured to learn from an officer that damage from the flying bombs in London "is too erratic to be considered a serious military menace."

In spite of the death and destruction that swirled around them, Origo's diary is ultimately an affirmation of the power of life and the resiliency of humanity enduring the chaos of the most terrible war in history. In spite of everything life somehow finds a way. Origo was pregnant and delivered her second child at a hospital in Rome while Allied bombs were falling.

Origo concludes her diary as follows, "The Fascist and German menaces are receding. The day will come when at last the boys will return to their ploughs, and the dusty clay-hills of the Val d'Orcia will again 'blossom like the rose'. Destruction and death have visited us, but now -- there is hope in the air."

If you enjoyed War in Val d'Orcia you will also like America Invades America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth by Kelly / Laycock
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5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book and put it in their own context, September 24, 2014
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I have intended to read this book for quite some time but decided to read it now in Florence. It is the most wonderful read for anyone interested in Italian life during WW2. I have friends here in Florence who were born just after this period and actually still suffer at the memories of listening to grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles telling stories round fires on winter nights. There are troubles in the world right now but i am not convinced we would have the same resources. This book is just a diary - not written for publication, but written because the writer was not sure if her family would survive. It is a simple narration of just the facts of life as they seemed back then. It has led me on to read more about Iris Origo in another book published just recently. Then I will love to travel to visit her home and garden - La Foce. The book gave me such a feeling for the period that driving through woods in this area just the other day I would not have been surprised to see a bunch of partisans jump out - but also looking at the density of forest, it is easy to imagine how many soldiers, deserters, Germans, Italians, Fascists, Anti-Fascists and kids just too afraid to be trooped off to some labour camp - spent their days - both starving, freezing and afraid in turn. Everyone should read this book and put it in their own context.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Intrepid Woman at War, August 9, 2013
A touching, illuminating and ultimately satisfying diary account of an English woman married to an Italian and living on a Tuscan property with dozens of farms and a castle. Amazing chaos in Italy after the King turns sides (July 1943), but doesn't join the Allies until the Germans have taken a measure of control, especially over the Italian armed forces. An unbelievable situation with refugees, escaped Allied prisoners, partisans, Fascists, Fascist militias, monarchists, communists, deserters (both German/Austrian and Italian as well as false German/Italian ones) roaming around and all coming to her household for food, clothing, shelter and often directions (a Moroccan escaped POW is headed north instead of south). Lots of ineffectual Allied bombing is recorded as well. Through it all she tries to help everyone and protect her family and her loyal retainers. A fine read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars War in Val D'Orcia, August 6, 2013
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John D. Casey (Charlottesville VA USA) - See all my reviews
I loved this. The supposedly secluded country house that Iris Origo lived in turns out to be a focal point of activity--she hides British soldiers, raises children, negotiates with the local authorities. Her account is becomingly modest, but there's no concealing her role. I went from this book to another book of Iris Origo's, The Merchant of Prato. Not as exciting--a detailed account of a business during the cultural height of Florence. At times more than I wanted to know, but at other times suddenly a clear picture of the merchant's life as if suddenly a time-telescope focused in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical story, July 28, 2013
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Excellent book. Although it is written as a diary it is written a story and very well written. Keeps your interest
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5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable woman, in remarkable times., July 31, 2014
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Amazing book. What courage and determination they had. World War 2 diaries are fascinating. Try also the Vere Hodgson's 5 year diary of life in London, "Few Eggs and No Oranges". Also, Simon Garfield's compilations of diaries from ordinary British citizens. You will be grateful for everything you have, and peace and quiet!
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War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944
War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 by Iris Origo (Hardcover - Feb. 1984)
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