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The Woman Who Shot Mussolini

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  112 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
At 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7, 1926, a woman stepped out of the crowd on Rome's Campidoglio Square and shot Mussolini at point-blank range. He escaped virtually unscathed. Violet Gibson, who expected to be thanked for her action, was arrested, labeled a "crazy Irish spinster" and a "half-mad mystic"---and promptly forgotten. Now, in an elegant work of reconstruction, ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Picador (first published 2010)
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Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Sinead Cusack reads from Frances Stonor Saunders' account of the troubled life of Violet Gibson, the daughter of an Anglo-Irish lord who attempted to assassinate Mussolini in Rome in 1926.
Pat
Very occasionally, I come across a book that is so interesting that I read it in one sitting and this is one of these. The subject matter is a virtually forgotten incident which occurred in 1926 and its protagonists are Violet Gibson, an aristocratic British spinster and Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy. If events that morning had gone just a little differently, the whole course of twentieth century history might have been very different.

On that long ago Wednesday Violet Gibson had
...more
Becky
Sep 18, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
UUG I had a review written and then Goodreads went down and didn't post it. What a pain.

Anyway. When people ask me what I read I usually say something like, "I'll read anything." I have no grudges with any particular genre, and I've read bits and pieces of just about everything. But the truth is that I don't read outside of YA/Children's lit very often. So when I read something like this I'm given pause while I'm like... can't tell if badly written... or just unfamiliar genre style...
There were
...more
Bill
May 23, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
pretty good book about the british woman who in 1926 tried to assassinate mussolini. unfortunately for everyone(except mussolini)she missed only grazing his nose and the gun jammed when she tried to fire again. i must admit i wasn't even aware that this event had happended.

for a history book, it's very well written and very easy to read. trying to make a book of over 300 pages on this topic means the author has had to pad the book with details of other family members, other non-related events in
...more
Bettie☯
Mar 24, 2010 Bettie☯ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Hudson
Bit of a long winded account of daughter of Lord Ashburne who was prime minister of Ireland who went a bit mad and zealous and attempted to shoot Mussolini but just shot a bit off his nose. Too much talk of was she mad or was she part of an anti-Mussolini plot and about whether Italy were going to charge her as a criminal or as a mad woman. Eventually they let her leave and her family put her in a mental home
S'hi
May 09, 2014 S'hi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women in history and politics
For all the men who have statues erected in their name, yet have failed to achieve the missions they set out on, it is doubly remarkable that a woman such as Violet Gibson has faded from public consciousness. That she is remembered at all must come down to her family’s class, or the likelihood of records remaining would be greatly diminished. But it is also because of this family background that Violet’s story is so problematical.
Stonor Saunders uses the sources of others of the same generation
...more
Nick Sweeney
Mar 07, 2012 Nick Sweeney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic look at a range of characters, and also at political trends and movements. It begins with wouldbe assassin Violet Gibson's Anglo-Irish ascendancy background, and the rifts that old and new allegiances caused between members of her family. They seemed like people in search of something, anything - hence one brother's love of all things Irish, including the language and a strange costume highlighted by an orange kilt, which he always wore, despite never living in Ireland; her ...more
Louise
Jan 21, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, italy
Here is an interesting piece of history. I didn't know of Violet Gibson, nor of her attempt to kill Mussolini. I picked up this book because I wanted to read about Italy around the time that my grandparents left it.

The book had some of cultural milieu I was looking for. I learned about Italian law and justice at the time, the women's prisons run by nuns, the treatment of the mentally ill and the general tenor of Mussolini's adoring crowds. In the chapter "Stigmata" there is a section on the Fasc
...more
Christine
BBC Book of the Week

(view spoiler)
...more
Hanne Armstrong
Dec 21, 2015 Hanne Armstrong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this author's "Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman" (an account of 14th century condottiere John Hawkwood) with great pleasure some years ago, so when I saw this book, bought it immediately.
Partly, of course, because I had no idea that a woman had shot Mussolini
I wasn't disappointed.
Stonor Saunders enters the world of between-war Europe as easily as she does that of the 1300's.
Her book speaks not only for and about Violet Gibson, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat who attempted to assassinate Mussoli
...more
Penny
Apr 27, 2016 Penny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Francis Stonor Saunders reminds me of the White Queen, as "trying to believe at least six impossible things before breakfast" is a modest feat in comparison to getting at least three interesting things that I hitherto didn't know into each paragraph!
I just wish I could retain all the information that I get from each page, all relevant, if not necessarily just around the subject of the book, leading you on to make connections with something similar in the past or future that links to the subject
...more
Jane
Nov 20, 2011 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good account of a blip in history I had never heard anything about. In 1926 Violet Gibson gets close enough to take a shot at Mussolini and got a part of his nose. If her gun had not jammed history would have been markedly changed. Good effort to put the reader in the context of the times. A number of famous people are included - again as an effort to give the reader that feel for the times. I thought it was a little long. Covers the backgrounds of both major characters (she a lady of Irish uppe ...more
Adrian
The life of Violet Gibson, daughter of Irish aristocracy, who got it into her head to assassinate Mussolini in 1926. Standing but a few feet away in a crowd she leveled a pistol at his head and fired. The gun misfired and clipped the leader's nose. The author does well bringing in social and political influences to bear on the story. Religious mysticism, psychiatric study and fascism, all relatively new, had their impact. It's shocking to read how in love with Mussolini western media and politic ...more
Victor Gibson
Violet Gibson, the woman who shot Mussolini was my great aunt . In a recording by Flanagan and Allen of "Underneath the Arches" they read the related headline of a contemporary newspaper. However, it was great to read such a sympathetic account of her life since I knew very little about her. Who knows whether she was mad or not. Her action now seems eminently sensible.

Whether or not you already know anything about Violet Gibson or Mussolini, this book is a great read. As well as describing the a
...more
Miss Karen Jean Martinson
Did you know a 50 year-old woman with a revolver got within 8 inches of Mussolini and shot him in the face? Not just any 50 year-old woman, but a titled Anglo-Irish aristocrat? It was fascinating - and tragic - to learn how the history of the Hon. Violet Gibson intersected with the larger history of Italian Fascism, and to see how she languished alone in an asylum long after Mussolini and European Totalitarianism imploded.

Great research, slightly less great interpretations of that research - I c
...more
Jon Manchester
Mar 28, 2010 Jon Manchester rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This non-fiction book is about an Irish woman who shot Mussolini in April 1926. Unfortunately she only connected with his nose, leaving him very much alive. The book traces her life story, much of which I found only mildly interesting. The historical context made this a "good read" as you learn about Facism, WW2, Ireland vs. England, the development of psychiatry, etc. That said I think for history lovers there are plenty of superior options out there. I felt this book could have been a hundred ...more
Sunny
May 19, 2010 Sunny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frances Stonor Saunders is one very bright lady. If her writing weren't so stellar, I'd have been annoyed at her vocabulary. Can't say enough about this book. Takes place before WWII and is a terrific history of Europe about a decade before fascism took hold. Covers Ireland/Britain; mental asylums; Italy; Religion; writers; politics; and so much more. I highly recommend this book. But I also suggest you keep a dictionary close by as you read.
Jgfunk
Sep 03, 2012 Jgfunk rated it really liked it


Interesting from a learning about history perspective. I hadn't realized how much public opinion, particularly foreign public opinion, changed about him during his time in power. Reminds of some relatively recent dictators and governments that have supported them. Also shocking to hear how she was treated by her family.
Margaret
Sep 11, 2010 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fascinating book. Saunders takes a look at a woman who is usually known as a blip on Mussolini's story. It is a tragic look at a woman (and Saunders includes stories of others like her) who spent a good deal of her life in a mental asylum, a victim of her family's embarrassment and society's lack of knowledge.
John Levon
An interesting read, the true story of a very disturbed woman. Does a great job of putting the hugely popular 1920s Mussolini in context. I found some of the writing a little bit pretentious for a straight "event biography", though, and the author seems to identify with Violet Brown just a little too much.
Amy
Feb 07, 2011 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I actually couldn't get through this one, and abandoned it. It was more of a look at the history of the period, than a story about the woman who shot Mussolini. Someone who is interested in the history of that period may find it more interesting.
Laura
Jul 11, 2011 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
An interesting account of the life of Violet Gibson, the only person who attempted to assassinate Mussolini to actually wound him, if not kill him. But more than that, it is an interesting account of how mental illness was treated in the first half of the 20th century, specifically in women.
Jane Walker
Sep 15, 2012 Jane Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The story of a long-forgotten woman who tried to assassinate Mussolini in 1926. Very well researched and written. Occasionally it feels as if the material has been stretched too far, but how many of us know about the career of Mussolini, let alone his would-be assassin?
Kimberly
May 02, 2011 Kimberly rated it really liked it
So far great historical fiction. The author quotes heavily from Virginia Woolf, but I love her, so this is fine.....Great insight into an early 19th century woman rebel.....rare for her times......
Joni
Sep 02, 2010 Joni rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, this was not a fluffy read for sure! Lot's of history, learned some stuff, wish I could say more. I do have to say it was hard to pick it up at some points.
Linda Wheatley
So difficult to get through this one, as evidenced in the date of reading. It is a very interesting story but the writing.....ye gods
Rose
Rose rated it liked it
Jan 20, 2014
Nadeem Khan
Nadeem Khan rated it did not like it
Apr 20, 2016
Emma Toro
Emma Toro rated it really liked it
Nov 02, 2016
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“Como dijo una vez Mussolini 'La multitud no tiene que conocer; tiene que creer'. En referencia a la ecclesia fascista de creyentes y militantes, explicaba que 'es la fe lo que mueve montañas porque produce la ilusión de las montañas moviéndose. La ilusión es, quizás, la única realidad de la vida'. Lo que unía a los fascistas no era una doctrina sino una actitud, una experiencia en la fe, que se concretizaba en el mito de una nueva 'religión de la nación'.” 0 likes
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