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.
Throughout her story Maria’s Catholic faith guides her. She keeps a statue of the Madonna with her and there are sections of prayer or dreams where the Madonna talks to Maria.
This is a book about families, hardships, war and retribution. The beginning was rather slow, perhaps reflecting the pace of life. I never quite got all of Maria’s relatives straight in my head. However, the war years were well written, I could easily picture it all, especially the hunger, cold and hardships. My favourite part of the book was the section on Mulberry trees and silk worms, which I found fascinating.
This book might suit those who enjoy family saga style books, or those who are interested in something a little different with their war years dramas.
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Maria Vittoria is embroidering a sheet for her dowry trunk.
Her father has gone to find her a husband. He’s taken his mule, a photograph and a pack of food: home-made sopressa sausage, cold polenta, a little flask of wine-no need to take water-the world is full of water.
It’s Springtime, when a betrothal might happen, as sudden as a wild cyclamen from a wet rock, as sweet as a tiny violet fed by melting mountain snow. There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, but her Father will not let her marry just anyone, and now, despite Maria’s years, she is still healthy. Her betrothed will see all that. He’ll be looking for a woman who can do the work.
Maria can do the work. Everyone in the contra says that.
And the lord knows Maria will need to be able to work. Fascism blooms as crops ripen, the state craves babies just as the babies cry for food. Maria faces a stoney path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.
In this sumptuous and elegant novel you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, feel the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdy, hear the silence that enfolds Maria when Achille – that ox of a man – lifts his hand to her, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family together in the most testing of times.