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Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War 1944-45 [Hardcover]

James Holland
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2008

Today Italy is a land of beauty and prosperity but in 1944-45 it had become a place of nightmares, a land of violence, war, and destruction. James Holland's ground-breaking account expertly documents the German advance to the stalemate of the Gothic line and a segment of Italian history that has been largely neglected.

The war in Italy was the most destructive campaign in the west as the Allies and Germans fought a long, bitter and highly attritional conflict up the mountainous leg of Italy during the last twelve months of the Second World War. For front-line troops, casualties rates at Cassino and then along the notorious Gothic Line were as high as they had been along the Western Front in the First World War. There were further similarities too: blasted landscapes, rain and mud. For the men who fought there, Italy really was the hardest campaign.

And while the Allies and Germans were slogging it out through the mountains, the Italians were fighting their own battles, one where Partisans and Fascists were pitted against each other in a bloody civil war. Around them, civilians tried to live through the carnage, terror and anarchy while, in the wake of the Allied advance, beleaguered and impoverished Italians were forced to pick their way through the ruins of their homes and country and often forced into making terrible and heart-rending decisions in order to survive.

'Italy's Sorrow' is the first account of the war in that most beautiful of countries to tell the story from all sides and to include the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike. Offering extensive new research, it weaves together the drama and tragedy of a terrible year of war with new perspectives and material on some of the most debated episodes to have emerged from the Second World War. It is a magnificent achievement by one of our finest young military historians.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First edition (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007176457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007176458
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.3 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 248,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in national newspapers and magazines and appears on national radio. His many books include Fortress Malta, Italy's Sorrow, The Battle of Britain and his fictional WW2 series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner.

His interviews with veterans of the Second World War are available at the Imperial War Museum and are also archived on www.secondworldwarforum.com. He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.

Product Description

Review

‘James Holland has written his best book yet, a gripping, yet compassionate account of the terrible war in Italy, with a memorable depiction of civilian suffering.’ Antony Beevor

‘’Italy’s Sorrow’ ambitiously tries to incorporate every element of the Italian campaign. There are some fine descriptive highlights…[and] there is a lot of good material.’ Financial Times

‘Impeccably researched and ingeniously structured …”Italy’s Sorrow” is a splendid account of an often overshadowed campaign by a historian who has already given us excellent studies of the Siege of Malta and the Desert War.’ Daily Express

‘Holland is particularly good at telling the story of a nationality through a few interlocutors…All are portrayed with a remarkably engaging touch, yet the sorrow is ultimately reserved for the poor, un-martial Italians whose ancient towns and villages were laid waste by both sides.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The central strength of the book is its depiction of the lives of ordinary Italians. Holland is a very humane historian with a strong emotional intelligence that is swift to understand and slow to judge…the suffering of Italy’s innocents deserves to be commemorated. James Holland’s excellent book does that, and much more, confirming his place in the first rank of contemporary military historians.’ Mail on Sunday

'A thorough and impartial overview.' The Economist

'Assiduously researched, enthusiastically narrated…a colourful narrative…it is hard to believe that this will not be the definitive account of the battle for Italy.' Daily Telegraph

'The suffering of Italy's innocents deserves to be commemorated. James Holland's excellent book does that and much more, confirming his place in the first rank of contemporary military historians.' Mail on Sunday

'One of the many witnesses whose superbly well-expressed emotions bring alive James Holland's history of the last year of the war in Italy…refreshingly revisionist…Holland is particularly good at telling the story of a nationality through a few interlocutors…all are portrayed with a remarkably engaging touch.' Sunday Telegraph

'The central strength of the book is its depiction of the lives of ordinary Italians. Holland is a very humane historian with a strong emotional intelligence that is swift to understand and slow to judge…the suffering of Italy's innocents deserves to be commemorated. James Holland's excellent book does that, and much more, confirming his place in the first rank of contemporary military historians.' Mail on Sunday

Praise for ‘Together We Stand’:
'Anyone who wants to know how it felt to fight in the desert war should read Holland's book. It represents a remarkable collation of personal experience and sensible historical judgments.' Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph

'Holland has produced a wonderful book whose pace…never seems to flag…he is a master at evoking time and place, with haunting descriptions of the desert landscape…If there is a better book on the North African campaign, I haven't read it.' Daily Telegraph, Saul David

More praise for ‘Together We Stand’:

'Using personal testimony and private memoirs as effectively as official archives, he recreates the hardships and challenges faced by ordinary soldiers and reassesses the tactical and strategic innovations that finally gave the allies the upper hand.' Sunday Times

'As Holland shows, this period saw the realisation of how the war might eventually be won.' BBC History Magazine

'Stands out from the crowd.’ Literary Review, Nigel Jones

'The book gives the individuals, be they commander-in-chiefs or infantry, space that attests to their bravery and sacrifices…a comprehensive appraisal of the war in North Africa.' Good Book Guide

'Holland tells the story brilliantly. He has delved into archives for letters and diaries and diligently tracked down survivors…Vividly, intelligently, movingly, Holland's monumental chronicle tells it like it was.' Patrick Bishop, Mail on Sunday

‘No other work that I have read conveys so effectively the tragedy of this frustrating campaign.’ TLS

About the Author

James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. He has worked for several London publishing houses and has written for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He is the author of ‘Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940-1943’, ‘Together We Stand’, ‘Heroes’ and a novel, ‘The Burning Blue’. Married with a son, he lives near Salisbury.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
By T. Burkard VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
James Holland's generosity of spirit and indefatiguable labour has created one of the best general histories I've read recently--and there's a lot of stiff competition about. As well as using written sources, Holland personally interviewed survivors from all sides of the conflict; Germans, Poles, Canadians, Britons, Americans, Italian partisans and fascists. These accounts give a vivid picture of the heroism and brutality of war, and instil a sense of sympathy for (almost) all of the participants. Their stories are skillfully blended into the larger narrative, which explains what happened, and why the major players (Alexander, Mark Clark, Kesselring, Churchill, Roosevelt, Mussolini, etc) made crucial decisions. Holland is immenently fair-minded; the controversy surrounding Clark's dash for Rome (in defiance of Alexander's orders) is explained from all sides of the question.

Comparing this book with the banal materials presented in England's National Curriculum, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that our educators don't want our children to understand the past. If books like these--which don't require a vast amount of background knowledge--were used in our high schools, pupils would be queuing up to study history. For all that this is accessible to the non-specialist, there's nothing superficial about it. Certainly one of its most attractive features is the sympathy Holland shows to his cast of characters--a welcome relief from the sneering debunking that has been fashionable ever since Lytton Strachey first picked up his pen.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive history 27 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
The Italian campaign of 1944 to 1945 is probably the most overlooked of all the major WW2 theatres of war. James Holland has written the definitive account of these events and no serious WW2 historian should miss this book. Packed with gripping narrative, moving personal accounts and many little known facts and figures you will not want to put this book down. I think it's lasting effect on me will be more than simply filling a massive gap in my WW2 knowledge - it has made me want to find out more. Already I have found existing writing on this campaign to lack the drama and sheer fascination generated by this book. It also provides a vital perspective on post-war Italian political and economic history. I have no hesitation in recommending this book - it will move and educate in equal measure and will leave you thinking as I did that probably no other area of WW2 was more bloody, more cruel and more savage. Lest we forget? - I suggest history has already forgotten all those who fought (or were caught up) in these events. James Holland has provided a fitting epitaph to the fallen, and a great memorial to the survivors. Read it now!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italy's sorrow 8 May 2010
Format:Hardcover
A superb book, beautifully written, I have nothing to add to the other five-star reviews other than to agree with them. I'm glad Holland is young and we can look forward to much more from him - he possesses a very rare gift of clarity and human understanding; he cares about the people he is writing about, and his well-reasoned conclusions on areas of dispute are always valuable. (Mark Clark's lunge for Rome particularly). My only gripe is the horrible quality of the book's production - sure, the design and typesetting are fine, but oh how I wished for a properly sewn copy as I prised mine open, having to keep pressure on it all the time as I read so that a good read was timed by the ache in my thumbs, with the plates popping out as the wretched 'perfect binding' gave way. Holland's superb narrative deserved a far better fate. I would happily have paid much, much more for a sewn edition. I would like Amazon to list three types of book, not just hardback and paperback - you know the latter is going to be 'perfect bound' and forgivably so for economy, but to list instead 'paperback', 'sewn and cased', and ''perfect bound' cased'. In fact I'd prefer another term for the third, like 'trash-glued in case' - you really do need a vice to prise open this horror, and the book is so good in every other respect.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italy at war 8 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is simply a great book. The author has focused on the last year of the Second World War in Italy. In a panoramic review of the events, the strategy, tactics, combatants and non combatants alike the author has painted a compelling picture of this period. Each aspect is handled with authority, compassion and understanding but the real talent is to have threaded it all together so that it makes sense. It was a grim and brutal struggle over unforgiving terrain, one month mountains, the next rivers. Apart from episodes such as the Anzio Landing or the capture of Rome it received comparatively little fanfare at home. Yet both sides employed huge resources but the allies could not achieve a decisive breakthrough until the war was almost over. The author uses the personal memories of people from all nationalities and backgrounds to convey just what it was like to be on the front line or in occupied territory. He conveys very well that, as in France and other countries, not only was this a struggle between countries but it was also a civil war with all the horrors that entails. This is a very readable book which I would commend anyone to buy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
My particular interest is due to family involvement in this war.
Published 1 day ago by John Davies
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Informative and generous with descriptions and maps.
Published 29 days ago by NYB
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb telling of a story not often told
Most books on the Second World War in Italy focus on everything that happens up to the fall of Rome. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gregory Spawton
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Italy' Sorrow : James Holland
James Holland's work is rivetting reading and the worm's eye view is particularly interesting and ground breaking. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars Italy's Sorrow is a Reader's Joy.
Italy's Sorrow deals with a complex historical episode as both a history and a human story. Not just one personal story but a number of different human experiences from all sides,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Oscar
5.0 out of 5 stars good condition
The book arrived promptly and in good condition. Do overall in very happy with the service of the seller. Thanks
Published 11 months ago by Jonathan Lindley
4.0 out of 5 stars Gives a good insight into life in Italy during this period
A good balance of personal stories, the progress of the battle and the politics. Easy to read and creates a powerful picture of the time.
Published 12 months ago by Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and balanced
Italy's Sorrow
A fanastic but at times upsetting book. It probably couldn't be otherwise, given the subject matter. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Musetti Gianon
3.0 out of 5 stars just a history book,thought it might be upto James Hollands high...
I bought the book expecting a fictional account not a history lesson ,I skipped most of it.Looking foreard to James Holland new Devils Pack
Published 17 months ago by stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Reflective
This is not a blood and guts thing, but full of insights into the country and what is was like to be involved in sadly unnecessary campaign. A sensitive man's reactions. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Packhorse
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