War In Val D'orcia, 19...
Iris Origo
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War In Val D'orcia, 1943 1944

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  202 ratings  ·  46 reviews
A classic of World War II, here in its first American edition. War in Val d'Orcia is Iris Origo's elegantly simple chronicle of daily life at La Foce, a manor in a Tuscan no-man's land bracketed by foreign invasion and civil war.

With the immediacy only a diary can have, the book tells how the Marchesa Origo, an Anglo-American married to an Italian landowner, kept La Foce a...more
Published (first published January 1947)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
When it comes to things like World War II, I prefer to read about the daily life of hoi polloi rather than battles won and lost and the big doings of world leaders. If you want a clear and unflinching picture of life for the Italian people late in the war, this book will serve better than any novel or formal history book.

Iris Origo was an English woman who married an Italian. She kept a diary of her life in Tuscany during a time of constant uncertainty, privation, and senseless violence; but al...more
This was such an amazing read that I'm really surprised I had never heard of it before picking it up. It's the diary of an Englishwoman married to a wealthy Italian and their lives in Tuscany during World War II. It relates her daily activities and thoughts as she cares for her family, for dozens of refugee children, and her neighbors as fascism topples and the fighting approaches and then sweeps over them all. She communicates everything with tremendous empathy for everyone around her but witho...more
Elizabeth Pergam
To be able to read a book in a place just a few miles from where I am staying, is a very particular pleasure. Even though the subject matter -- a Tuscan villa during the last two years of WWII from the days of Mussolini's first downfall, the German occupation, the Allied landing through the fierce fighting -- is grim, Iris Origo's diary is gripping. Her descriptions of how to maintain some semblance of normality for the refugee children and her own, as well as achieving a nail biting balance bet...more
A diary. True life detailed within 1943 and 1944 Tuscany, Italy. This does not have the character development of fiction or the luxury of literary sentiment in lyrical melody. Instead it is recorded life during a war the way it really happens. Questionable loyalty, civil war with 100's of characters coming in and out of the chaos. Continual shifting to do the "right thing" or for various survival or military movements. And they may all be different things to do. Iris speaks for herself. What she...more
What a simple and poignant record written by the Marchesa Origa during World War II. She and her husband's manor seems a kind one that only gets kinder during 1943 and the first half of 1944, until the Allies arrive. Their place is busy: They have 23 children sent from cities to be safe there; partisans are living in their woods, as are soldiers evading draft, escaping from prison camps; Germans live in their home at times; Fascist troops are coming by all the time. They seem so caring, centered...more
Kathleen F
Fantastic! I picked this book up while visiting Tuscany back in 2001 or 2002. It's the wartime diary of an expat (she was of US/UK citizenship) who married an Italian and lived on a villa in the Val d'Orcia, the region of Tuscany around Pienza and Montepulciano. During the war, Origo and her husband took in @ 30 war refugee children (I can't remember the exact number; it kept increasing as the war went on), and kept them safe as the war front moved through nearby villages and ultimately to their...more
It's hard for us Americans to put ourselves in a position to feelingly comprehend the experiences of more traditional societies, societies in which life and choices operate only within an inherited social, family and personal framework. What is it like to be born in a place and a family where one is expected simply to fill the positions previously held by one's parents, one's grandparents and one's great-grandparents, extending farther and farther into the distant past before just disappearing i...more
This book was recommended to me while I was visiting the Val d'Orcia as a more accurate portrayal of the region than that found in "Under the Tuscan Sun." I'm not sure the last two years of WWII could be a typical portrayal of any area or people, but Iris Origo's diary does characterize all the participants -- German, Italian and Allied soldiers, peasants and landowners, bureaucrats, fascists, partisans and refugees, with honesty, calm and insight. In her preface, she emphasizes that she resiste...more
Barksdale Penick
I enjoyed this journal of a British woman married to an Italian in the countryside during WWII. The Facists are unforgivably evil, the Germans a sporadic mix of good and bad, and the populace downhearted but resilient. I am not sure what i expected, but I was surprised by how dominated the book is by the actual events of the war. There is little in the way of character development. At first, the war is far away, but come closer and closer and then rages right at their home. The pace of the book...more
Karen Magner
This book humbled me and opened my eyes to the blurred lines of war, and the strength of people when they are brought to a level of sheer survival. The generosity of the narrator is even more admirable when you learn about her background. Anyone who wants to learn how WWII affected a small community should read this book. It will stick with me for a long time.
It stands and falls on being a diary. On the one hand, you get a perfect sense of the pace of life in wartime Italy -- the false rumors, the constant pushback of the Allied arrival, the constant worsening of the situation. On the other, it's repetitious in places, empty in others.

Really, it felt like a book that should be fictionalized by Kazuo Ishiguro. Origo clearly isn't telling everything about herself, even to her secret and personal diary (somehow, partisans know to come to her farm, but...more
My knowledge of Italian history during WWII was very limited, but after reading The Light in The Ruins, I decided to read a factual account of the chaotic events that followed the fall of Mussolini and the civil war that occurred as the Allies invaded and the Germans dug in with no real functioning government left in Italy. This is an amazing first hand account of a villa in rural Tuscany and what one family provided and endured as the war swept over their estate. It reads like fiction. Amazing...more
I first read this book nearly 30 years ago, and it's every bit as good as I remember. These are the unedited diaries (with a few footnotes added later) kept by the Marchese Iris Origo as the Allies invaded Italy, the Fascist government fell and was reestablished by the Germans, and then the front lines approached and passed through Tuscany when the Germans retreated north. It is a minor masterpiece showing how world historical events impact the lives of isolated peasant farmers -- and, in the Or...more
The diary of Iris Origo, an Anglo-American married to an Italian landowner, is a wonderful account of life in the Tuscan countryside during World War II. It starts quietly enough, with the war a safe distance away, but nonetheless always in her thoughts. As the war approaches the Val D'Orcia, the tone of her writing remains calm even as the magnitude of the devastation reaches unbelievable levels. Through Origo's diary, you get the sense that there were good Germans and bad Germans, good Fascist...more
David R.  Godine
"Iris Ortigo, a British-American writer married to a titled Italian landowner, was a legendary wartime figure around Tuscany during the German military occupation of Italy. Her estate was a refuge for children, peasant families and escaped Allied airmen. A humanitarian who somehow managed to keep up the pretense of normalcy and decency while battles raged around her farmlands, the Marchesa Origo kept a diary in 1943-44 that is now published here as ''War in Val d'Orcia.'' It is a remarkably movi...more
Gave this 4 stars due to subject, a new look at the devastation and horrors of war, takes place in the Italian countryside during 1943-1944 as Mussolini fell and the Germans occupied, while the people waited for liberation by the Allies, just trying to survive. The narrator is able to offer refuge to a group of children and aid to escaped pow's, partisans and others targeted by the German war machine. Interesting point of view, good complement to Primo Levi of a people who just want to live thei...more
After visiting La Foce, the home of Iris Origo and a "character" in the book, I finally picked up this short 200 page memoir. Iris and her husband Antonio were real heros, gave aid and shelter to the many people caught in the war, regardless of their political affiliation. Very interesting view of Tuscany under Fascist Italian then German rule. Innocent civilians and partisans caught in the invasion then retreat of the Germans after Italy left the war. Allied forces also caused significant damag...more
Barbara Michel
This is a fascinating account about the way that Iris Origo, an American, and her Italian husband coped during the war on his family's estate. Nazi officers looking for a nice place to stay wanted to take over her house. When they visited for a look-see, young men who would be forced into military service had to hide as did POWs who escaped from Italian prisoner-of-war camps. Her husband drove to Rome and Florence amid the war and tried to keep his estate going and his tenant farmers fed. Their...more
Engaging story of life for the inhabitants of a rural Tuscan estate during the confusing 1943-44 war years near Lake Trasimino. The Allied invasion of Sicily, the (first) fall of Mussolini, the 6-week lull before the German's step in and restore him, the creaping advance of the Allies north toward Rome and the Po Valley - all overlay the fight a few brave women & men to keep the children and residents living for a better day they knew was coming. Good small history.
Leopoldo Nuti
A moving, utterly realistic story of World War II in my own region of Italy, less than an hour away from my hometown. Very well told and highly recommended
Steve Good
The author and her husband sheltered refugee children in their Tuscan villa during World War II. They also hid partisan fighters, British POWs, and Italian deserters on their estate, under the noses of German officers and local fascist militia. The book is a diary. Every day brings new dilemmas and a new moral calculus. Recommended for anyone interested in Italy, Tuscany, WWII, and in complex issues of history and ethics.
Bruce Felstead
A great read. Really makes one think about war and all the suffering that innocent working people endure as a result. This account of what occurred in Val D'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy makes it clear that the Italian people really never wanted to be at war. It was the Fascist political machine that took them there and, in the end, the Italian populace hated the Fascists even more than the dreaded Nazis. Very thought-prvoking!!!
Iris Origo's diary paints a vivid picture of Italian life in the mid-40s. We read this book prior to a trip to Tuscany and we were able to visit her home at La Foce. It was so awesome to see it in person. The only thing I did not appreciate were the few instances of racial prejudice in her diary. Otherwise, this is a compelling read for anyone interested in Italy during the war.
I read this after reading The Light in the Ruins. It was very very interesting but I had hoped more day to day. Yes, it was a diary but it was more about the war around them instead of how they managed every day. Still it was well written and worth reading, especially as a companion to The Light in the Ruins.
I loved this book, despite not liking memoirs in general. It provided both fascinating history of a very specific area of Italy during World War II and also insight into the really amazing life of Iris Origo and what she did for her region of Tuscany in wartime.
Wonderful "as it was happening" war diary, covering the last days of Mussolini through the Allied invasion and eventual German retreat. I happened to read it not long after I had read Suite Francaise, and the two made for very interesting reading about WWII.
This book was really well written. It gave me a fresh perspective on World War II, a war I thought I already knew a bunch about. It reminded me how sad and tragic and wrong war is and also how some people are brave and good and kind in the face of great evil.
Greg Wolfson
What a great memoir! This little book inspired some great fiction as well, but tells a story no one before had attempted: The lives and sufferings of the everyday people and heroes of the Italian countryside during Nazi occupation of their country. Inspired!
This diary tells the interesting story of how the author and her community navigated many daily difficulties during this period of the war. I didn't feel that I really connected with the author, but I appreciated her straightforward, clear descriptions.
"Destruction and death have visited us, but now - there is hope in the air."
Remarkable war diary written by Marchesa Iris Origo, an Anglo-American woman married to an Italian and living at La Foce, near Montepulciano in Southern Tuscany.
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