ARC Review: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida


TheMadonnaOfTheMountainsCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.


Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Italy, mainly the town of Fosso, from 1923-1950

***I received an eARC copy of The Madonna of the Mountains from the publisher, Spiegel & Grau, via NetGalley***

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: A slow read that gets better as it goes along.

The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida took awhile for me to get into it. Told primarily from the point of view of Maria Vittoria (it occasionally slips into other POVs), we start out in the early 1920s as she meets her future husband for the first time. She then moves away from her family’s house and starts to build her life with her husband, Achille.

As Maria is our main character, it’s important that we as readers connect with her, and sadly, I did not feel any connection to her, or her story, at all. Throughout the novel she has a religious focus that, at times, mainly at the beginning, felt inauthentic to me. As the book goes along, her Catholic faith feels more real, and maybe that was a point of the book, but I just didn’t connect to the religious aspects of this read.

Maria is a hard worker, and her determination and drive to support her family helps carry the novel along. I found the sections set during WWII the most compelling, as Maria scavenges for food and teaches her children how to survive on very little. I haven’t read too many books set in Italy during WWII, and I fear many references went over my head, but I still learned a bit about how it was to live in Italy during this time period.

I went into this read thinking that there’d be a romantic storyline here, and there really wasn’t. Maria and her husband, Achille, have a difficult marriage, and there were times I just wanted to shout at Achille, and later on, their son, Primo. The synopsis mentions the patriarchal society, and there are scenes here that are anger inducing and difficult to read.

I think The Madonna of the Mountains will either be a book that you love, or that you are bored by. I personally found it on the slow side, and really had to push through the beginning, but once I got past the 50% mark it picked up. I do feel that I’ll think of this book when thinking about WWII novels, as it was a different perspective on the war.

Bottom Line: It takes awhile to get into and gives a different perspective on WWII.

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website

Does this sound like an interesting read? Do you enjoy reading books set during WWII?


8 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

    1. I try to vary my reading (genres and subjects) so I’m not getting all that worn out. I try not to read books that are very similar in a row. With historical books I can read them if they are different in subject (ie, WW2, or Victorian England, a western, the Marilyn Monroe book, etc). Since the settings are different, they feel different enough to me so I don’t feel overloaded with historical fiction. However, I’ve read a couple contemporaries back-to-back lately and I could tell by the last one that I needed to read something different!
      It’s hard with ARCs sometimes as I try to read those in order of publication, and so those I will sometimes read similar books back-to-back which I really don’t like to do! And lol, i’m reading 4 fantasy books right now, which is irritating, as I can’t help but compare them to each other. At least 2 of those books are re-reads (Feast of Crows and Dance with Dragons), and one is a library book with a long wait list (Children of Blood and Bone), and the other is an ARC (Fawkes) that I’ve got to get read so my review can be written in time for publication date!


      1. You’re right! I didn’t even think of your historical fiction being set during different times. So much historical fiction today is set during WWII for some reason, so my brain has decided that is when all historical fiction occurs, lol. I don’t remember you having read a fantasy book before!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There’s a lot of WWII historical fiction out there! I decided to read this book because it was a different approach to WWII, with the focus being on what was going on in Italy. I love WWII historical fiction, but it does start to all sound the same after awhile.
          I love fantasy! But I don’t read all that much of it, as for some reason I have trouble reading too much fantasy back-to-back as the fantasy books I read tend to all be somewhat similar! And long… 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I have a huge fantasy series I need to get to. It’s by Mercedes Lackey and is something like 4 trilogies that go together. I’m not sure how to fit them into my reading or how I would review them, so I have to think on it. What fantasy series are you reading?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. That series sounds like one I’m working on – the Farseer books by Robin Hobb. They are broken up into trilogies, but there’s a lot of them, and they’re long! I’ve only finished the first trilogy and am waiting to dig into the second trilogy. It’s hard to review series books – I find that unless it’s a fantasy series that many people know, most blog readers are only interested in either my overall thoughts of the series (rather than book by book), or in a full review of the first book of the series. I’m always wondering how to review those types of books.


              1. I’m leaning toward reviewing the trilogies together and doing something like a list, or maybe picking three criteria by which to judge the whole trilogy so I don’t get scattered. I’ve heard of Robin Hobb–maybe from you?

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Those sound like great ideas! 🙂 I think I wrote a review on a Hobb book not too long ago – maybe last summer / early fall? Her books are pretty famous (think epic fantasy), and I know I’ve seen a few reviews around the blog’o’sphere too.


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