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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Readable Biography
This is a very readable work indeed. Well written and paced, it also treats its subject as a serious historical figure. Bosworth's Mussolini is a dynamic, forceful individual who dominates Italy for a quarter of a century, but who ultimately is lacking any clear ideology beyond the need to be the Duce. He is neither evil, nor a joke, but does, in the final test of a...
Published on 24 Nov. 2002 by Steven Wall

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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Generally good but a bit pretentious at times
On the whole this is a good biography but is somewhat spoiled by the author's failure at times to strike the right balance between narrative (what happened) and analysis (why or how it happened or did it happen at all?). The book is full of deeply intellectual analysis but is often missing key chunks of information, which at times is quite annoying. For example, the...
Published on 16 Nov. 2004 by lavvocato


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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Generally good but a bit pretentious at times, 16 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
On the whole this is a good biography but is somewhat spoiled by the author's failure at times to strike the right balance between narrative (what happened) and analysis (why or how it happened or did it happen at all?). The book is full of deeply intellectual analysis but is often missing key chunks of information, which at times is quite annoying. For example, the outbreak of the Corfu crisis in 1923 is recounted but very little is told about how it ended. Again, on page 298, we learn that Mussolini gives assurances to the French that meddling in Tunisia is over. Pity that there is no reference to Tunisia prior to page 298 so we never find out what this "meddling" actually was.
There is also a slight tendency to introduce new characters out of the blue without making any real attempt to explain in detail who they were, what their background was, how they became part of the story, etc. This happens in particular with Achille Starace and Roberto Farinacci, two key figures in the Fascist hierarchy who met the same grizzly end as the Duce. Perhaps the author just assumes that you know all about them already.
In addition, I found the book irritatingly pretentious at times, with a proliferation of foreign words - not just Italian ones, which would be understandable. Is it really necessary, for example, to use the word "mentalité"? Why not just say "mentality"? Or "mindset", "way of thinking", etc? Or am I just a Philistine? And how about the following description of a photograph taken of the Duce after his execution, which shows him lying on top of his mistress with a "gagliardetto" (a sceptre-like fascist symbol) in his hand: "... he looked for a moment like a dead or deposed king, clutching hopelessly but unrepentantly to the hollow (if phallic) sceptre of power". Is any of this really necessary? I think not.
All of this is a pity really because, overall, I enjoyed this book and learned a great deal about a subject I hadn't read about since school. It is clearly well researched and the author's analysis of the Duce is convincing. Mussolini was more than just a thug and a clown, as non-Italian historians often portray him, but he was certainly not a benevolent dictator who "got things done" in a country which badly needed a firm hand in order to get trains to run on time, etc etc. It may be true that Mussolini was a hard-working dictator who read every report that was sent to him (unlike Hitler who, quite apart from everything else, was lazy and disinterested in detail). It may also be true that he was reasonably cultured and something of a linguist (fluent French and German (although he found some of Hitler's rants difficult to follow) and conversational English). But it's not true that Mussolini "never killed anyone" (as Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi recently asserted) - for a start, loads were killed in Blackshirt violence in the period leading up to Mussolini's seizure of power in 1922. Neither is it true that Italy's economy performed well under Mussolini or that Italy was less corrupt under fascism - quite the opposite. And the idea that fascism was a "third way" between capitalism and communism was complete eye-wash - in the final analysis, all Mussolini really believed in was Mussolini. It is also worth remembering that Mussolini introduced anti-semitic legislation in 1938 - long before Fascist Italy became dependent on Nazi Germany for its survival - and, following the German occupation in 1943, it wasn't just Germans who rounded up Italian Jews that got taken away to Auschwitz. If you're looking for a "revisionist" biography that glosses over the wickedness of Mussolini and his regime, this is not your book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, yet very tough going in places, 25 April 2011
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This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
This book does pretty much what you would expect, giving a thorough account of the life of a man whose importance in shaping the early twentieth century is somewhat underrated.

As a general reader, I found the level of detail to be mostly adequate and I certainly learned all that I wanted to. However, I feel that people who already have some prior knowledge of the man or Italy in this period may well find this book more suited to them (one or two events were referenced without much explanation, as though the reader should have already known the details).

Moreover, I have to agree with some of the other reviewers who said that they found the writing style tough going. Whilst I understand that the use of sophisticated vocabulary by a writer is a way of showing their intelligence/skill, in this book I personally found it too much and I not surprisingly discovered that having to look in a dictionary every few minutes was really off-putting, and consequently I was unable to 'get into' some chapters.

Of course, it does still serve perfectly well as a reference book, and I would thus recommend it to the reader with a more scholarly interest in the subject.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Readable Biography, 24 Nov. 2002
By 
Steven Wall (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
This is a very readable work indeed. Well written and paced, it also treats its subject as a serious historical figure. Bosworth's Mussolini is a dynamic, forceful individual who dominates Italy for a quarter of a century, but who ultimately is lacking any clear ideology beyond the need to be the Duce. He is neither evil, nor a joke, but does, in the final test of a war that he helped start, fail utterly. I am not an expert on the period, but I found this book to be an enthralling and enlightening account of a key, if often overlooked, figure of 20th century Europe.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It takes a while but worth the effort, 30 Jan. 2014
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PSMorris (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mussolini, Second Edition (Paperback)
I liked this book in comparison to the authors book on Fascist Italy which was harder going.This is an easier and more interesting read that gets more interesting as the books goes on but one does have to persevere a little. if you are interested in this part of relatively recent Italian history ,and think about its impact on modern day Italy, then it is worth buying.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but rather wordy, 23 May 2008
This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
Mussolini by R.J.B. Bosworth is an interesting book which offers some insights into the rise and fall of Mussolini. It shows that Mussolini was a terrible man but not as bad as some of his contemporaries and perhaps could if the Second World War had not happened could have perhaps ended up like Franco in Spain. It also dispels the view that he was an incompetent figure of ridicule by showing that while not being an intellectual he was far from a buffoon. However, the book suffers from a lack of structure in places, the mention of figures and events with no explanation as to who they were or why they occured and in places a rather pretentious tone. All in all a good book but rather wordy and a little hard-going.
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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mussolini retrospect., 12 May 2004
This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
Bosworth provides a holistic profile of the period in which Mussolini was in power. Bosworth, unlike other biographers suggests the events surrounding the Mussolinic era were as much a result as the men surrounding Mussolini as Mussolini himself. This approach to makes for a measured and engaging take on Italian politics in this period.
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars musings on musso, 6 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Mussolini (Paperback)
there's no doubting the sexyness of mussolini, that strong jaw ...a penchant for uniforms... grrr.
But this book covered none of Mussolini's famous daliances with the men and women of pre war Italy. I wanted Juicey details i wanted sexy photos.Sadly this book only got me racing a couple of times. Thats not good enough for the money.If you want to read more about Mussolini's extravagant antics in love try finding the long out of print "Mussolini made me love him" by Paulo Moretti. Written and published in the early 60's.
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Mussolini, Second Edition
Mussolini, Second Edition by R. J. B. Bosworth (Paperback - 28 May 2010)
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