There were four thousand Italian families in Montevideo at the time. When the city was put under siege Giuseppe put together a force of Italians to help defend the city. The fame the newspapers generated brought hundreds of those Italians to join Giuseppe’s forces with a two-fold promise: they would fight for freedom for Uruguay and use this fight as a training ground so they could all return to Italy and unite their own beloved country.
Once again, those in need of military leadership came to Giuseppe to ask for aid, but this time many of those who were volunteering to help Uruguay were from its Italian immigrant population and most shared Giuseppe’s future goal, making the appeal ever more difficult to ignore.
Since Anita could not wield a gun in one hand and a child in the other, Anita followed with the other camp wives, despite Giuseppe’s pleas that she stay behind until the baby was weaned. Instead, she rode with the three-month-old Menotti on the saddle in front of her. When the troops came to a stream swollen by recent rains, Giuseppe turned his poncho so the hood was in front and wrapped Menotti inside it so he could keep the wet child warm with his body heat.
“To them,” Giuseppe began. “To me. To all of us, this is the fire in which we shall be forged before we can light a flame of freedom in our homeland.” “You are capable of understanding a greater goal,” Anita said. “Most men are not,” Texeira stated, subconsciously including himself in that list. “All we can do is try,” Giuseppe reiterated.
Anita spent those same four days in the enemy camp sharing short rations with those of her troops that were captured with her, nursing those who needed such treatment and planning her escape. Each day she asked for proof that Giuseppe had died and each day she was told a different version of how he fell in battle.
“We cannot accept slaves into our ranks,” Texeira insisted. Since the beginning of the war enslaved Afro-Brazilians had run from Brazil as it was a slaveocracy, hoping to fight for Rio Grande del Sol and then to join the new republic and create a home that disavowed slavery. Though rebelling against Brazil, many Rio Grandean leaders still believed in the sanctity of private property and so neither condoned recruiting runaways nor cared to arm or train Afro-Brazilians.
“Do you knit as you sleep, as well?” Giuseppe teased, due to her swift progress. Anita knitted as she alternated between walking and riding horseback. For herself she had fashioned a red wool cape over a white peasant blouse that billowed around her neck. As she finished the last stitch on the poncho she had designed for him, she handed it proudly to Giuseppe. He draped it over his head and across his shoulders. The varying colors of the stripes across the chest gave the piece a distinguished look that made Anita smile.
Giuseppe approached the first local he found, who happened to be Henrique sweeping the stoop outside the door of his shop. Thrilled to meet one of the victorious rebels, Henrique invited Giuseppe to his home for coffee. There, as if in a dream, he found the woman he had seen on the hillside, preparing the afternoon coffee.
Henrique saw Giuseppe’s shocked face and politely introduced them, “Senor Garibaldi this is my cook, Aninha.” Neither spoke, not even the banal niceties one expects when strangers are introduced, because neither Giuseppe or Aninha felt like strangers to the other in that moment.
On the hillside, the same loneliness had filled Aninha Ribeiro da Silva for most of her young life. She had ridden to the bluff that morning in order to see for herself the ships of this glorious rebel navy, come to create a new nation. Freedom fascinated her.
It’s always nice to read a positive review of a newly published book so when the Kirkus Review of my new book on the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi said it was “A wonderfully researched and dramatically gripping work of historical fiction” I smiled.
Research IS my middle name these days and ‘gripping’ is what’s needed for the pace when one is documenting such an epic life so that it doesn’t feel like it is just meandering from battle to battle with no story growth.
The book gave me the chance to finally delve deeply into Garibaldi and Anita’s lives and come to a deeper understanding of the revolution that united Italy. — Rosanne
“A novelistic biography of the 19th-century Italian general who devoted his life to the unification of Italy.
Giuseppe Garibaldi was raised in Nice, an Italian territory in Piedmont held by the French. His mother nevertheless insisted, against convention, that he learn to read Italian and to zealously assert his independence. After an aborted attempt to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a sailor, Garibaldi joined the Young Italy movement under the direction of Giuseppe Mazzini and agitated for Italian independence. As a result, he was sentenced to death and was forced to flee to South America, an exile that lasted more than a decade.
While in Brazil, he discovered thousands of misplaced Italians, and he recruited them to participate in the Ragamuffin War to establish a republican experience that prepared him for the wars of independence in Italy later. Also, he fought in the Uruguayan civil war before finally returning to Italy intoxicated by the dream of Italian independence and unification—a devotion stirringly portrayed by Welch.
He formed a group of volunteers, called the Hunters of the Alps, to fight in the Second Italian War for Independence and later participated in the Expedition of the Thousand in Sicily, successfully establishing Victor Emmanuel II as king.
Welch’sresearch is impeccably rigorous. She captures the minute details of Garibaldi’s life, the machinations of military strategy of the period, and the atmosphere of both 19th-century Italy and South America. One could quibble that the accumulating, granular detail finally becomes daunting to digest. However, her prose is reliably lucid and sometimes achieves genuine poignancy, particularly in the representation of Garibaldi’s indefatigable fervor: “Italy will not truly exist as a nation until her flag, symbolizing the unity and freedom of the former Roman Empire, flies from the Capitol in Rome.
”A wonderfully researched and dramatically gripping work of historical fiction.” – Kirkus Reviews