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.