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The Madonna of The Mountains

Elise Valmorbida

Cousin of My Brilliant Friend, niece of Tracy Chevalier and acquaintance of Anna Hope, we are delighted to introduce Maria Vittoria, a new literary companion…

Date Published
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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.

There are no eligible men in this valley or the next one, and 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 contrà 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 stony path, but one she will surely climb to the summit.

In this sumptuous and elegant novel you will taste the bigoli co l’arna, touch the mulberry leaves cut finer than organdie, and feel the strain of one woman attempting to keep her family safe in the most dangerous of times.

Critic Reviews

Elise Valmorbida’s writing brings Maria vividly to life and she is excellent on checkpoints and informers, beatings and hunger — the small terrors of living in Mussolini’s Italy. “Maria feels fear all the time, like a stone hidden in her belly, or a shadow that won’t leave her body no matter how hard she tries to leap away from it.” It is a bewitching, but entirely unsentimental portrait of one woman’s attempt to keep her family safe in turbulent times.

Antonia Senior, The Times - Book of the Month
Critic Reviews

‘[A] brutal, brutalizing portrait of war... Lushly written.’

Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

[A] moving, engrossing story of a traditional Italian family enduring the worst of times . . . Valmorbida shows a deep knowledge of the minutiae and privations of domestic and rural life in Italy

Jennifer Somerville, Good Reading
Critic Reviews

A must-read.

New York Post
Critic Reviews

Mussolini's Italy is brilliantly recreated . . . Valmorbida is excellent on the small humiliations of living in a fascist regime, and Maria is a memorably ordinary heroine.

Summer Books Pick, The Times
Critic Reviews

With Mussolini's propaganda promoting fertility as the female form of patriotism, Maria rises to her role as matriarch in this elegant, sweeping novel.

Big Issue

Elise Valmorbida grew up Italian in Australia, but fell in love with London. She’s a designer, writer and teacher of creative writing. In recent years, she produced a feature film. Her fiction includes Matilde Waltzing, The TV President and The Winding Stick. Her non-fiction includes SAXON – The Making of a Guerrilla Film, and The Book of Happy Endings, now…

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