The Italian Wife – The Pontine Marshes, Italy – Kate Furnivall

italian wife

Why a booktrail?

Italy, 1932. Mussolini’s Italy is growing from strength to strength, but at what cost?

Story in a nutshell

Bellina, Italy

One bright sunny morning, architect Isabella Berotti sits at a café in the vibrant centre of Bellina in Italy. A woman comes up to her and asks if she will watch her ten year old daughter just for a moment. Isabella agrees but moments later, watches in horror as the woman throws herself from the square’s clock tower

Trying to protect the young child, Isabella is thrown into a dangerous situation as she attempts to keep the child away from the authorities. These are dangerous times in Italy and you can’t trust your neighbours. But something niggles Isabella, something the woman said before she committed suicide.

Isabella is compelled to work out the secrets of this encounter, and of the child’s family but she does so at a very grave risk to herself

Place and setting

Latina and the town hall Comune Di Latina Piazza del Popolo, 1 Bellina is fictional but is modelled on this village which was the inspiration for the village and setting of the novel see how the town is set out in a central forum into various quadrants The town hall where Isabella is sitting at the start of the novel? Latina - The public gardens At the centre of the town. Walk here to the Piazza del Popolo and marvel at the modernist and rationalist styles of the buildings Pontine Marshes In 1928 the Fascist government drained the marshes, cleared the vegetation, and settled several hundred families. Towns were built: Littoria (now Latina) in 1932, Sabaudia in 1934, Pontinis in 1935, Aprilia in 1937, and Pomezia in 1939. Sabaudia - Town Hall One of the towns created by Mussolini Rome Mussolini created fear from this building shouting and rousing the crowds from its balcony. Now an art museum - 15th-century palace museum housing collections of medieval & renaissance art, sculpture & weaponry.http://museopalazzovenezia.beniculturali.it/
Latina and the town hall
Comune Di Latina
Piazza del Popolo, 1
Bellina is fictional but is modelled on this village which was the inspiration for the village and setting of the novel see how the town is set out in a central forum into various quadrants
The town hall where Isabella is sitting at the start of the novel?
Latina – The public gardens
At the centre of the town. Walk here to the Piazza del Popolo and marvel at the modernist and rationalist styles of the buildings
Pontine Marshes
In 1928 the Fascist government drained the marshes, cleared the vegetation, and settled several hundred families. Towns were built: Littoria (now Latina) in 1932, Sabaudia in 1934, Pontinis in 1935, Aprilia in 1937, and Pomezia in 1939.
Sabaudia – Town Hall
One of the towns created by Mussolini
Rome
Mussolini created fear from this building shouting and rousing the crowds from its balcony. Now an art museum – 15th-century palace museum housing collections of medieval & renaissance art, sculpture & weaponry.http://museopalazzovenezia.beniculturali.it/

Kate Furnivall takes you to a side of Italy you have never seen before. The Pontine Marshes have such a history and story behind them that is recreated here against a backdrop of mystery and intrigue

Mussolini and his fascist regime had a vision – to recreate a brave new world, to give homes and work to those in the Great War. More than 124,000 men were involved in building the five towns on the marshes and what a historical backdrop this turns out to be.

Agro Pontino

A wide open plain of some 30 miles by 20 miles, 30 miles SW of Rome, the town of Bellina is fictional but is based on Latina, one of the towns Mussolini helped create.

A barren and godforsaken place..

But he had to admire Mussolini’s audacity. His sheer strength of will to succeed where Roman emperors, popes and even Napoleon ha failed before him

The historical background is important since Isabella Berotti’s husband was involved in the fighting and was one of Mussolini’s Blackshirts  – the tension as they roam the streets  on the outskirts of Bellina is palpable –

Isabella had heard rumours from Francesca of unrest in the zone, stories of the blackshirts sweeping through it with their truncheons. Here the dust was thick, at its worst when the wind raced down the mountains.

The history of the country and Mussolini’s legacy therefore is Isabella’s story too. She fears her husband’s death was more complicated that it was made out to be but fears searching for the truth will reveal so much more. Standing up to such a cruel regime is frightening – as Isabella stands in Mussolini’s presence

It was like being in a cage with a lion. Nothing less. He didn’t need to roar or  snarl. Just his presence was danger enough

Danger, unrest and betrayal are behind every corner as Rosa, the young girl looks set to remain trapped in the town’s convent. The authorities want to stop Isabella from trying to rescue her with a photographer at her side.

But why exactly does the atmosphere of suspicion and danger which lingers?

Booktrail review – Susan

If you love Italy, history or simply a very intriguing historical mystery then this is the book for you. From the very first page, the action and intrigue come thick and fast and the twists of the plot are as winding as the small Italian streets. You can smell the fear and tension all around, as Isabella tries to find out what Rosa’s mother told her just before she killed herself.

I was totally enraptured from the very first page. Why, who, what? I never stopped asking myself what was happening and the pages practically slipped through my fingers. Set against a real historical time period and event which I had never heard of, I was intrigued to know more and by reading this fascinating story of Isabelle and little Rosa, you will learn, feel and experience much more than in any history book.

The fear of a woman trying to protect a young child whilst uncovering the real past of her dead husband was a thrilling premise which was layered with dramatic effect. This needs to be a movie – it was so epically evoked and played out so vividly in my mind’s eye

Most definitely recommended for a trail but a gorgeously swept novel of history, the search for the truth and the true meaning of human legacy.

4 thoughts on “The Italian Wife – The Pontine Marshes, Italy – Kate Furnivall

  1. I always dreamed of traveling to Italy exploring its rich historical cultures. Your review about this book is thrilling with much suspension! Plus a setting in many historical places is definitely a TBR.
    Thanks so much for sharing, I really like your blog posts!

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