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Iris Origo
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War In Val D'orcia, 1943 1944

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  468 Ratings  ·  77 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
Published (first published 1947)
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Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting diary, written during the years 1943 and 1944 by Iris Cutting, a British woman who married Marchese Antonio Origo and lived with him in Southern Tuscany. The couple has a daughter, Benedetta, born 1940, and another baby, Donata, born in 1943. Sadly, their son, Gianni had died in 1933, before the war, aged only seven. The couple lived in a large, isolated house, surrounded by fifty seven farms; of which theirs was the central one.

Iris writes the diary and she states th
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
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nick Fairfax
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Particularly interesting as it is a day by day account of the Second World War from the perspective of someone living in Tuscany and the effect it had on the author, her family and community. An always timely reminder that the victims of war are ordinary people. I also particularly liked how she pointed out how brave and generous the Italians were, risking their lives to help others.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my SECOND time to read this book (the first was while we were actually staying in Siena, not far away from Val d'Orcia). I love the day-to-day view of the advancing war front in 1940s Italy. I love her spirit. I love her writing style (this is a diary). I'm surprised at the number of books that have been based on her book including Chris Bohjalian's recent "Light in the Ruins" and "Restoration" by Olaf Olafsson (both good, by the way). If you want to get a different view of World War II, ...more
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago, but then re-read it after reading that it inspired Chris Bojhalian to write The Light in the Ruins in 2013. The wartime diary of Iris Origo, The English wife of the Marchese Origo who took care of sixties orphans and, with her husband, kept their estate running through the tumult of the Second World War, is a riveting read - even the second time around.
Jan C
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty interesting. An Englishwoman, married to an Italian, is stuck there during the war with her family, plus she has another child on the way. Her husband does speak German and frequently has to act as translator. They are pretty much responsible for the surrounding farms. This works much like tenant farming, except that the farmer and Antonio , the husband/landowner, split the profit.

Iris keeps her diary through the war and, I think, she tries to keep some objectivity in it. Although as 1944
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting first-hand account of life in Italy from 1943-1944. Origo was Anglo-American and married to an Italian Count who lived in rural Tuscany below Siena. She was in a war zone dealing with a defeated Italy, a fascist puppet state, German occupiers, a flood of escaped POWS, partisans, and allied bombing, all while caring for 23 refugee children in addition to her own children. She was well-known as a person who assisted escaped POWs, a fact which probably led to her honors (Dame Command ...more
This book was a best-seller when originally published, and deservedly so. I listened to the book on tape, and it was fantastic.
Kathleen F
Sep 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rich and blooded British woman marries the illegitimate son of an Italian Marchese, whatever that is, buys a sprawling, barren Tuscan estate, acquires some tenant farmers, and keeps a whole lot of refugee kids and escaped POWs fed and clothed through World War II. Like me, she listens to the BBC. Unlike me, the German military took a lot of her stuff and she lived under fairly constant threat of execution. And she soldiered on.

Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: group, non-fiction
Iris Origo was half American and half English, married to an Italian nobleman. At the time this diary was written, Italy, always a reluctant participant in the war, is trying to extricate itself and suffering both from Allied bombing and German occupation. The overall impression is of chaos, not just from the direct effects of the war, but also the confused political situation (there are up to four different governments, none of which is in control of much of the country or supported by a signif ...more
Alaina Sloo
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely interesting account of the practicalities of life in Italy during the later years of WW2 under the Facists and German occupation. At first, the diary entries seemed almost too placid and mundane, but the more I read, the more apparent the things going on underneath the simple accounts became. It was fascinating to learn more about the internal Italian and local politics at the time, which were much more complex than American history books generally portray. I was also reading a book ...more
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written account of the wartime experiences of an English woman who married an Italian count. She wrote this diary as she was experiencing events at her home, La Foce, situated in a stunning part of Tuscany I once visited. Origo took in many orphans from bombed cities in Italy, sheltered partisans and generally played a dangerous game of hide and seek with the Nazis.
Moya Smith
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book about a compassionate woman.
Michael Ryder
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very eloquent firsthand account of war coming to rural Tuscany,Italy. Very well written with excellent insight to the cost of war from a personal standpoint. The author accurately describes the confusion of war and its effects on those who must endure it.
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We visited La Foce while travelling in Tuscany two months ago because we'd heard of the beautiful gardens, but at the time I had no idea about the estate's history or the important role the Origo family played during WW2.

During the tour of the house and gardens, the guide kept referring to this book and discussed some of the more notable events which had occurred at La Foce. Needless to say, I was curious to know more and the book did not disappoint.

On its face, it's a collection of diary entr
Eugene Rubin
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A terrific book. Recommended to me by my sister Barbara, it brings home to younger generations (and to me, who was 4 years old when it was written) what it was like to go through the second world war as a civilian. I unqualifiedly (word?) recommend it.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever thought about the Italians at the end of World War 2? They didn't like Mussolini, they were allies with Hitler, and they were waiting for the Allies to rescue them, but that involved being bombed by their rescuers. Iris Origo captures this all in her diary--a beautifully written, politically observant, while also everyday, look at the final years of World War 2 in Tuscany, Italy. She writes simply, sharing the confusion of four governments and also the deep indecision (and longing ...more
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David R. Godine
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
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