My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This story is set in the time of Benito Mussolini in the aggressive project to drain the mosquito infested Pontine Marshes and create 5 new model towns utilising the unemployed veterans of the Great War, representing the Brave New Italy of pre-World War 2 Italy.
Isabella, the protagonist, is an architect who had married one of Mussolini’s Blackshirts and naively blinded by the uniform and her ‘good luck’ learns the truth throughout the book about him. The story starts dramatically with shootings and ends dramatically with shootings. The story arc was predictable, however the character development and journey getting there were what was interesting in this book. The Communist-Fascist tensions were well described. I learnt about Italy during that era and the author shows what the citizens went through.
It’s worth doing a google image search on the Pontine Marshes before and after to get an idea of the ambition of the project. The area was bombed in World War 2 and re-built.