Book Review: The Madonna of the Mountains ***

This e-book was sent to me free of charge (yay!) in return for an honest review. So here it is:


by Elise Valmorbida

The publisher’s blurb describes this as: An epic, inspiring novel about one woman’s survival in the hardscrabble Italian countryside and her determination to protect her family throughout the Second World War—by any means possible

I suppose that sums up the story neatly enough, although I object to the word “hardscrabble” (what does that even mean?!) (according to my online dictionary it means “involving hard work and struggle.” Which I suppose one could have guessed.) But I think it makes it sound a more engaging book than it is.

Maria, the main character, is a fiercly uncompromising person, and her faith – and thus also her God, and her Madonna – is just as unbending. Although I found the story interesting, the fact that I didn’t really warm to Maria made it a more difficult book to read. Another reviewer writes: I thought that one of the real strengths of this book is that the story is unvarnished. Maria is not portrayed as a romantic figure. Her life is harsh, she has to make difficult choices, and she herself can be quite hard and unbending. But her motivations and emotions seem genuine – survival and love for her children are her prime motivators.

I’m not saying it wasn’t interesting – although I’ve read many books set during WW2, this is the first that I’ve read set in Italy, and thus it was interesting to find out more about Fascism in this country, and how it played out during this period. It was also intriguing finding out about the country food eaten before and during the war, especially with a few recipes given at the end (including, slightly macabrely, instructions as to how the Fascists used salt and castor oil as torture).

I’m not saying it wasn’t well-written – there were some passages of lyrical writing, and the story did pull me along.

And yet…and yet…I just wasn’t engaged as much as I wanted to be. I wanted to really enjoy this book, but at times I felt I was reading it because I felt obliged to. I find it quite interesting that the member reviews on Net Galley are either of the “loved it” or “really didn’t enjoy it” variety. I am in the middle, but wavering more to the negative end. I’m giving it three stars, because it’s nowhere near as bad as my 2-star-review book, but I’m afraid I didn’t really enjoy it.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Madonna of the Mountains ***

  1. I am afraid I don’t read as much as I used to. My last job was in a library which was perfect for me! Unfortunately, there are a lot of books that promise so much but,unless you are drawn in by the characters, it’s difficult to enjoy.

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