Italy's Sorrow by James Holland
A Year of War, 1944-1945

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During the Second World War, the campaign in Italy was the most destructive fought in Europe – a long, bitter and highly attritional conflict that raged up the country’s mountainous leg.  For frontline troops, casualty rates at Cassino and along the notorious Gothic Line were as high as they had been on the Western Front in the First World War.  There were further similarities too: blasted landscapes, rain and mud, and months on end with the front line barely moving. 

And while the Allies and Germans were fighting it out through the mountains, the Italians were engaging in bitter battles too.  Partisans were carrying out a crippling resistance campaign against the German troops but also battling the Fascists forces as well in what soon became a bloody civil war.  Around them, innocent civilians tried to live through the carnage, terror and anarchy, while in the wake of the Allied advance, horrific numbers of impoverished and starving people were left to pick their way through the ruins of their homes and country.  In the German-occupied north, there were more than 700 civilian massacres by German and Fascist troops in retaliation for Partisan activities, while in the south, many found themselves forced into making terrible and heart-rending decisions in order to survive.

Although known as a land of beauty and for the richness of its culture, Italy’s suffering in 1944-1945 is now largely forgotten.  This is the first account of the conflict there to tell the story from all sides and to include the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike. Offering extensive original research, it weaves together the drama and tragedy of that terrible year, including new perspectives and material on some of the most debated episodes to have emerged from the Second World War.


About James Holland

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James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University.  A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in national newspapers and magazines.  He is the author of three previous historical works – Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege, 1940-1943; Together We Stand: North Africa 1942-1943 – Turning the Tide in the West; and Heroes: The Greatest Generation and the Second World War.  His many interviews with veterans of the Second World War are available at the Imperial War Museum.  James Holland is married with two children and lives in Wiltshire.
Published April 1, 2008 by St. Martin's Press. 656 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Less engaging than Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944 (2007), but still of much value to WWII buffs and generalists.

Mar 20 2008 | Read Full Review of Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War...

Kirkus Reviews

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Holland peppers his text with stirring vignettes of life under fire: a partisan bomb attack against an SS police company in the heart of Rome, a desperate defense of a German paratrooper line against advancing Indian and South African troops.

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Literary Review

In his prologue, Holland describes the part she took in the blowing up of a German platoon that resulted in the notorious massacre at the Ardeatine Caves, in which 335 Italians were shot - ten for every German killed, plus five extras.

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Spectator Book Club

And once Cassino was at last in Allied hands, after seven terrible months of warfare, the various units and divisions, a vast polyglot force of 17 nations, pushed on towards the north, fighting for every kilometer of the way, struggling with over-extended supply lines, negotiating their way throu...

Mar 15 2008 | Read Full Review of Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War...

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