Italy's Role in World War II: Background information when reading Villa Triste

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Villa Triste

by Lucretia Grindle

Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle X
Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Jan 2013, 640 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Italy's Role in World War II

Print Review

Italy's role during WWII can seem puzzling, as the country gave the appearance of switching allegiances more than once during the course of the conflict, at times ostensibly siding with the Axis powers, at others supporting the Allies. This contradiction, though, can be seen as a reflection of a volatile period in Italy's history, as various political factions sought to gain control.

King Victor Emmanuel III King Victor Emmanuel III (1869 – 1947) ascended the throne of Italy on 29 July 1900. Reforms were already well underway to convert the country to a constitutional monarchy with the king as head of the government. Most governing decisions were reached via consensus between the two chambers of parliament – an appointed Senate and an elected Chamber of Deputies, both of which were presided over by a prime minister appointed by the King. The country underwent a substantial economic depression after WWI, and the Fascist party took advantage of the population's unrest to gain influence, with Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) at the party's head. King Victor Emmanuel III appointed Mussolini prime minister in 1922.

Benito Mussolini Mussolini gradually gained more and more power eventually claiming he was responsible only to the King and rejecting any attempt by parliament to rein him in. The King did nothing to discourage Mussolini's assumption of authority, feeling that to counter him in any way would spark a revolt. Mussolini implemented harsh tactics to establish control over the people, including using secret police, imprisonment and torture to discourage anyone from defying – or even questioning - his supremacy.

When WWII broke out, Mussolini supported the Nazi party but didn't officially commit Italian troops to the hostilities until 10 June 1940, after Hitler invaded Poland. Ignoring advice that Italian forces were ill-prepared for war, he sent forces into North Africa, Greece and Russia in support of Germany. They experienced humiliating defeats and were eventually forced to surrender all territories in North Africa to the Allies.

The Allies invaded Italy on 3 September 1943 and immediately after the Grand Council of Fascism voted overwhelmingly to return all constitutional powers to King Victor Emmanuel. Mussolini was relieved of power and arrested, and Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio was appointed prime minister. He and the King tried to convince Hitler that they remained loyal to the Axis powers, all the while secretly negotiating Italy's surrender to the Allies. They signed an armistice with the Allies on 8 September and fled the country, leaving the army without clear orders.

Hitler, who expected the move, took full advantage of the resulting confusion and swept in, systematically disarming all Italian ground troops. Approximately 600,000 soldiers were arrested, some of whom were summarily executed while most were shipped via rail car to prison camps. Many escaped or deserted and joined the partisan groups - civilians who banded together to fight both the Nazi invaders and their fascist supporters.

Pietro Badoglio The Nazis freed Mussolini and created a puppet state around him headquartered in Salo in northern Italy, which again publicly supported the Axis powers. As the Allies closed in over the course of 1945, Mussolini retreated with the German army only to be captured by communist partisans and executed.

WWII ended for Italy on 2 May 1945, when fascist forces surrendered to the Allies. The government returned to its constitutional monarchy form. The war left the economy completely wrecked, though, with the blame and a lot of anger directed at the country's rulers. Popular opinion forced a referendum on whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic, and on 2 June 1946 the Italian citizens voted to oust the king and Italy officially became a republic.

King Emmanuel picture from
Mussolini picture from
Field Marshal Pietro Badoglio picture from

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article is from the February 6, 2013 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.