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Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi [Hardcover]

William Fotheringham
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
Price: £16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Jun 2009
Voted the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century, Fausto Angelo Coppi was the campionissimo – champion of cycling champions. The greatest cyclist of the immediate postwar years, Coppi’s scandalous divorce and controversial death convulsed Italy in the 1950s and were still making headlines half a century later. In Fallen Angel, William Fotheringham, author of the definitive biography of Tom Simpson, tells Coppi’s story for the first time for an English-speaking audience. Coppi was the first man to win cycling’s great double, the Tour de France and Tour of Italy in the same year – and he did it twice. He achieved mythical status for his crushing solo victories, world titles and world records. His epic rivalry with Gino Bartali divided Italian opinion for a decade. But his significance extends far beyond his sport. Coppi’s divorce remains a landmark case in Italy’s shift away from the church. In the 1950s, adultery in Italy was still a criminal offence, punishable by up to a year in prison. Coppi and his lover, the ‘White Lady’ Giulia Occhini, both married with children, were dragged from their beds in the middle of the night. They were excommunicated, and a clamorous legal battle followed. The ‘White Lady’ was forced to leave the country; Coppi himself died aged just forty, from malaria contracted during an insignificant race in Africa. Fallen Angel tells the story of Coppi’s tragic life and death, of how a man who became the symbol of a nation’s rebirth after the disasters of war died reviled and heartbroken. It is a unique portrait of Italy and Italian sport at a time of tumultuous social change.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224074474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224074476
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Fotheringham writes for the Guardian and Observer on cycling and rugby. He is the author of a biography of Tom Simpson, Put Me Back On My Bike, which was acclaimed by Vélo magazine as 'the best cycling biography ever written' and Roule Britannia: A History of Britons in the Tour de France.

Product Description


"A vivid rendering of the high price of fame in a dog-eat-dog world"
--Financial Times

'Trautmann's Journey isn't your average football biography - but Trautmann was no average goalkeeper. It's a remarkable story' --Four Four Two

`absorbing book... excellent' --Daily Telegraph The Daily Telegraph, reviewed by Simon Briggs

"a truly remarkable story, uncovered with immense skill by Catrine Clay" --The Daily Telegraph, reviewed by Miranda Seymour

`sober, detailed, well-told account' --Guardian

`utterly compelling'
--Independent on Sunday

Book Description

A remarkable biography of 'the most popular Italian sportsman of the twentieth century' by the acclaimed author of Put Me Back on My Bike

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fotheringham's finest hour 30 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bill Fotherigham writes very well on cycling and I always look forward to his latest offering. For me this his best effort to date by some distance and also the best cycling biog I've read.

The reason for this is that, in this book, he avoids the usual formula of the racing and results and a potted history of the person. Insofar as the results are concerned, cycling is hamstrung by the palmares of Eddy Merckx, which is like like comparing the batting averages of Don Bradman against everyone else. There is no comparison: the gulf is too large. What he has done instead is weave a multi faceted story: the rags to riches story of the poor boy made good; the complex rivalry between himself and Gino Bartali; and of course his 'interesting' domestic life that polarised Italy. All this is interspersed against the historical, social and political upheaval of the war and after, and the social mores of Italy moving from the control of the church to a secular society. Ultimately, the story of the man is more interesting than the career.

Coppi and Bartali were two of Italy's greatest ever sports stars and the various photos that turn up in this book and elsewhere are iconic. They attained film star status with the media attention they attracted. And it makes me wonder what results they would have achieved but for the intervention of the War. Fotheringham also did a good thing in managing to get Raphael Geminiani onside as it's apparent he's good for a quote and very opinionated; and, quick to take umbrage like he did with Paul Howard's book on Jacques Anquetil.

I would recommend this book to any sports fan, not just to those interested in cycling because the sporting angle becomes subsumed in the life story, which makes it all the more worthy.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cycle of History 14 Jun 2010
Not being a cyclist aficianado I had never heard of Fausto Coppi until I picked up this book. It is excellent, concentrating on the subject of the biography rather than the statistical and newspaper reports that often make up the facile ghost written stories about sportsmen. Coppi was from peasant stock, like another Tour of France winner, Miguel Indurain, combining strength and determination in a long standing rivalry with Gino Bartali. He started racing before - and continued during - the war when he broke the world hour record which lasted for almost a decade and a half.

In March 1943 Coppi joined the Italian army and was captured in North Africa by the British the following month. He was repatriated to Italy in 1945 and in July that year won the Circuit of the Aces in Milan. Cycling was the centre of huge media interest with Coppi and Bartali its main stars. From the late nineteenth century drug use was widespread in many sports and none more so than cycling. The situation was so widespread that in 1930 the Tour de France rule book reminded competitors that the organisers would not provide them with drugs. Coppi was open about the use of amphetamines, although none were ever found on him.

The rivalry with Bartali started at the beginning of Coppi's career. He joined Bartali's team in 1940 winning the Giro d'Italia by a massive margin over his team leader. Barteli was not amused. Bartali was a southerner, a traditionalist, a conservative with a leaning towards Church inspired Christian Democracy. It was said that Bartali relied on praying while cycling Coppi relied only on his body.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Coppi is humanized 10 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fallen Angel is a well-written, heavily researched and interesting book. Fotheringham does well to keep a neutral stance on events by presenting both sides of the argument equally. I knew that Fausto Coppi was one of the greatest cyclists that has ever lived before I read this book but I did not know why. This book reveals all. Apart from Coppi's tremendous results on the bike, his privacy, shyness and early death meant that he retained an aura of mystique that continues to this day. Coppi is humanized in this book and I suppose that this is the point of biographies. My point is that it leaves me slightly disappointed as I feel I will never be able to idolize him in the same way as the Italians do. Perhaps the story of Coppi should be written as a piece of fiction so that he can take his place once again amongst the cycling Gods.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fausto Coppi 30 Sep 2010
Great insight into a great sportsman who I guess, unless you are Italian and a cycling fanatic, you would know little about. A great natural talent whose untimely death could have so easily been avoided. Interesting to realise the profound differences between road racing today and just after WWII, support vehicle, what support vehicle; although stimulants were just a prevalent, so it's not just a modern day concern. Good read and recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful biography of a cycling legend. 13 Sep 2010
William Fotheringham is the author of a number of cycling books including "Put me back on my bike" which is a biography of Tom Simpson and "Roule Britania A History of Britons in the Tour de France" and "Fallen Angel" maintains the high standard that he has set himself. Fausto Coppi, was known as the Campionissimo - the champion of champions - a title richly deserved given his achievements including multiple wins in the Tour de France and the Giro. However, we should also remember that a significant proportion of his career was lost to the war years. Indeed, Eddy Merckx, the man who dominated cycling in the late 1960s and early 1970s, once commented that he didn't like to hear himself lauded as the greatest cyclist ever when he compared himself to Coppi. The book covers Coppi's rise to the top of his profession, his rivalry with the devoutly religious Gino Bartali, and the many race victories that make his Palmeres one of the best ever. However, it is the chapters covering his reaction to the death of his brother Serse and his relationship with the beautiful Giulia Occhini, the "White Lady", that make for the most fascinating reading. Its a biography of a sporting great and also the story of an amazing life. I recommend it highly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent A+++++++
Published 7 hours ago by Lecaude
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
What an truly great rider and a thoroughly amazing story.
Published 4 days ago by Den355
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Hubby says he loves it - another present for him.
Published 16 days ago by Arsinoe
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent portrait of a conflicted hero and his world.
Well written and informative (as expected of this author), 'Fallen Angel' offers a fascinating insight into a conflicted hero, a society emerging from the social and physical ruin... Read more
Published 18 days ago by T. Almy
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight
Fantastic story of how dificult it was to Live and Race around the war years, plus a personal insight into Coppi's life. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Violet
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, stifled by stuffy style
Meticulously researched and invaluable to anyone interested in the golden era of Italian cycling. This is well written but quite dry and matter of fact. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sonny Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars Cycling interest
I find any knowledge of the Tour de France very interesting, and it gives you an insight into riders who carry out this race.
Published 6 months ago by Silver fox
4.0 out of 5 stars Fausto Coppi
As before bought as part Christmas present for friend who raced and knew the score. He says many of the top racers were on drugs because they couldn't bear to lose. Read more
Published 7 months ago by roni w
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched
In this well researched and highly readable book the author speaks to many of Coppis associates and friends. I don't think a better book on Coppi could be written.
Published 7 months ago by Cyclist1
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a great book
this is a very good book and I really like it and this book gives you the Italian cycling through the years.
Published 8 months ago by patrick hayes
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