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
Giuseppe agreed and rose to leave, but the prisoner had one more thing to say. “While I admire your love for country do not let it blind you to the need for other forms of love in this short life we lead. To be a soldier is honorable. To be a husband, to be a father, that is to be human. The land will not remember you, the ones you love will.”
For the love of country. For the love of freedom. For the love of a woman. He fought.
Giuseppe Garibaldi yearned for a world of equality, liberty, and freedom for all nations, races, and genders. America had long claimed her independence from England, yet his beloved Italian peninsula was in a never-ending state of instability and war as the Austrian Empire, French, Church, and regional kingdoms wrestled for power.
Forced into exile, Garibaldi’s resolve to unify his homeland into the sovereign nation of Italy led him on adventures that spanned the continents. On sea, horseback, and foot, he confronted pirates, clashed with South American gauchos, and commanded his loyal volunteer army of thousands—the “Redshirts”—with dignity, clarity, and courage.
But one of the most revered generals in history was as vulnerable to loss, failure, and heartache as any man. Perhaps Garibaldi’s greatest battle was the one in his heart as he struggled to hold onto the love of his life—the revolutionary woman always by his side, both on and off the battlefield.
As they could not yet return to Italy, the two became embroiled in the cause of creating the Republic of Rio Grande do Sul, a region of Brazil which wanted to separate from Brazil in 1835. Named the Ragamuffin War for the the fringed leather worn by the gaucho farmers who began it, the war became a cause close to Giuseppe’s heart.
To fend off the loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land, and to stay connected to the movement for an independent Italy and keep his eye ever on the long term goal, Giuseppe turned to writing. He sent a constant stream of letters to the Young Italy members now scattered around the globe.
“The edict read: “The council of war, invoking divine aid, condemns by default Garibaldi to the penalty of ignominious death, and declares him to be exposed to public vengeance as an enemy of the country and the state, subject to all the pains and penalties imposed by the royal laws against bandits of the first catalogue in which the condemned is placed.””
“At five feet five with blond hair and blue eyes, Garibaldi was visually more Greek than Italian, but Italian women were drawn to him all the same, especially when those who supported a united Italy understood he was on their side. Teresita Cassamiglia and her mother, Caterina Boscovich, who owned the Osteria del Colombo in Genoa, were among the many women who helped Giuseppe. Ignoring the danger that could come from aiding and abetting revolutionaries, they housed Giuseppe at their Inn between naval journeys, slyly seeking out other potential converts to Mazzini’s Young Italy to send his way.”
“While European scholars were endlessly debating theology, the Arabs in Spain possessed a knowledge of the heavens, geography and mathematics that Europeans could only envy.” He handed the instrument to Giuseppe as his son turned the astrolabe over in his hands. “Let this be a reminder that all cultures have contributed to your world, whether you know it or not.”
“Time with his mother and brothers didn’t last. Soon Giuseppe, like all young men from the newly-created middle class, was sent to boarding school in Genoa, over 120 miles from his home in Nice. Nicoletta hoped he would study medicine or law but a short year into his time at school, when the teachers would not give lessons on navigation, Giuseppe and a small group of friends decided to test themselves.”