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  • Mussolini's War

  • Fascist Italy from Triumph to Collapse, 1935-1943
  • By: John Gooch
  • Narrated by: Mark Elstob
  • Length: 21 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (91 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

While staying closely aligned with Hitler, Mussolini remained carefully neutral until the summer of 1940. Then, with the wholly unexpected and sudden collapse of the French and British armies, Mussolini declared war on the Allies in the hope of making territorial gains in Southern France and Africa. This decision proved a horrifying miscalculation, dooming Italy to its own prolonged and unwinnable war, immense casualties and an Allied invasion in 1943 which ushered in a terrible new era for the country.

John Gooch's new audiobook is the definitive account of Italy's war experience. Beginning with the invasion of Abyssinia and ending with Mussolini's arrest, Gooch brilliantly portrays the nightmare of a country with too small an industrial sector, too incompetent a leadership and too many fronts on which to fight.

Everywhere - whether in the USSR, the Western Desert or the Balkans - Italian troops found themselves against either better-equipped or more motivated enemies. The result was a war entirely at odds with the dreams of pre-war Italian planners - a series of desperate improvisations against Allies who could draw on global resources and against whom Italy proved helpless.

This remarkable audiobook rightly shows the centrality of Italy to the war, outlining the brief rise and disastrous fall of the Italian military campaign.

©2020 John Gooch (P)2020 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Succint and enilighening

A wonderfully lucid and comprehensive exploration of a very complex subject. The author has a deft hand with the material. Most stimulating and insightful. Narration is good, but one would like the narrator to brush up on his pronunciation of Italian and German words and names. Very irritating. for example: Macchi is pronounced Makki... a "c" followed by an e or an "i" has a soft sound, like cheese in English. Some pronunciations are very confusing. This observation applies to many narrators on audible. Like newsreaders, one should familiarize oneself with the pronunciation before tackling the reading. But on the whole a excellent study and an example of superb scholarship.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 12-10-20

Detailed account of Italy's war.

The title is half-right. There's actually not much about Mussolini in here, but "war" is definitely on point. This is traditional military history, with a strong focus on operations and battles. There's relatively little about politics or about Italy's home front, here you're up at the front with the troops, and the book is divided roughly into theatre by chapter, which is sensible and helps narrative.

The amount of detailed combat narrative started to overwhelm me at times, and I sometimes found it difficult to keep an overall picture in my head. Although one can never attack a historian for detailed research, occasionally I would have liked a broader-brush. There's also a lot of detailed statistics that are sometimes illuminating and sometimes not. It might have been more useful at times to hear for example that “Britain produced twice as much steel as Italy”, than to be told exact production statistics over several years.

He also puts into context the often appalling circumstances that the Italian's found themselves in in their attempt to create a great empire with inadequate resources, with an arrogant ally, against often more powerful enemies.

There seems to have been some truth to the trope that the Italians behaved better than the other Axis powers in the war, certainly not as barbarously as their allies in the SS or the Croat militias. But the brutality of the wars they found themselves in, and that inherent in National Socialist ideology: meant the Italian armies covered themselves in more then enough dishonour from Ethiopia to the Balkans to Russia. And despite Gooch's often sympathetic tone towards the Italian soldiers, he is frank about their record of shooting civilians, using poison gas and allowing Jews to be rounded up and handed over the Germans.

Given how many jokes we've all heard about Italian military performance, this book does provide a useful corrective in highlighting just how much Italian service-men were asked to do, with so few resources against such determined opposition. But the reality that comes up again and again is that the Italian army was simply not up to taking on well-trained and well-equipped enemies.

The narrator is good, he is clear and keeps up a steady pace.

4 people found this helpful

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Plenty of detail, little context (or mussolini)

This book is full of information on the precise details of battles throughout the war which I'm sure will be fascinating to some, particularly those who already have a good knowledge of Italy and WWII.

However for a general reader, I would not recommend this audiobook. The focus on stats, such as the amount of munitions and supplies in excruciating detail, comes at the expense of context. The author does give the reader an idea of the bigger picture, or of the motivations and strategic aims of Italy and it's leaders. There is very little at all on Mussolini and he is barely characterised - anyone looking for something that focuses on him (as would be expected from the title) will be disappointed.

The same is true of any of the military leaders involved - they all blend into one and are hard to remember without any characterisation.

2 people found this helpful

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stat heavy but very insightful

this could be promoted as something of a comedy. Mussolini's detachment from reality is less well known than Hitler's, but even more comic and delusional. Fascinating

2 people found this helpful

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Reasonable But Flawed.

As a straightforward history book - this text provides all of the required dates, data and statistics, although echoes of US Cold War disinformation hampers the logic of the narrative somewhat. The Italians joined the Germans (and their allies) in an invasion of the USSR that had the clear objective of eradicating the Slavic race (supported by the Vatican) and the destruction of Soviet Socialism! Although never objective was achieved, the barbaric nature of the Nazi invasion resulted in around 34 million Soviet deaths and the destruction of vast farming and industrial area! The conditions in the Western USSR were atrocious because of the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity commited by the Italians and the Germans - but which thus author either plays down or ignores altogether. Whilst Italian troops routinely tortured, raped and murdered the Soviet civilian population - this author would have you believe that the Italian murderets were somehow 'loved' by their victims! And that the nasty Red Army deliberately murdered Italian POWs when in fact many were not prisoners at all (having deserted and escaped or defected to the Soviets), whilst others died because of the drought, famine and disease caused by their presence and behaviour! To omit all of this (as well as the Holocaust) is awful history writing! The Italians were not brave but they were fascist racists who lived up to their reputation of murdering the innocent and running away from those who can fight them back! Indeed, the author's continuous insistence upon painting the fascist Italians as some kind of misunderstood heroes is a very disturbing trend that recurs throughout this book. The Italian POWs were treated by the USSR much better than the fascists treated Soviet prisoners who were mostly murdered immediately after being captured - another point left out by the author. Just why this author wishes to eulogies the Italian fascists only he knows. A useful book if its weaknesses are acknowledged and further details sought out elsewhere!

1 person found this helpful

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Great overview of Italy in WW2

I was expecting a good overview of Italy in WW2, with insights on why the war went as it did and I wasn't disappointed. It focuses on the war and the military, but there's no detailed information about the battles themselves, they are mentioned but mostly just their outcomes. Instead the book focuses on a strategic level view with economics, politics and military strategy.

I would highly recommend this book to any military history enthusiast out there, but if you are looking just for a very general overview of Italy in WW2, this might be a bit too detailed to hold your interest.

1 person found this helpful

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Detailed summary of Italian Military in WW2

The author does a commendable job of describing in great detail the specifics of the Italian military's contribution and performance in WW2. The details, however, is where I struggled with this book. There was often exhaustive lists of precise amounts of resources, divisions, munitions, etc, with little context or comparison. I often found this overwhelming and detracted from the key story. Indeed, I felt that the centre to the whole story, Mussolini himself, wasn't discussed anywhere near as much as I imagined he would have been.

If you enjoy a book with a lot of details about military manoeuvres and logistics, then this is definitely for you, but personally it wasn't my cup of tea.

1 person found this helpful

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The best introduction to a complex period

A fantastic introduction to a complex period of Italian history, Mussolini's War is a must read for anyone interested in Italys role in the Second World War.

In popular Military History it's very easy to focus on the great battles and campaigns, but Gooch spends a lot of time analysing the Italian Economy, Industry and political-relations to his credit. Equally, its easy to view the Italian Armed Forces as simply incompetent or cowards without context, but Gooch's work refines this stereotype, pointing to a non-existent industrial base, woeful fuel supplies and questionable leadership from Il Duce being among the worst offenders.

In short, Italy did not have a hope of winning Mussolini's war; but its a miracle it held on as long as it did. Highly recommended as an introduction to a hard period of Modern Italian History.

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Detailed account of the Italian war effort

Interesting and welll narrated. Be warned, this is very much a blow for blow of the Mediterranean/North African/Eastern European theatres of war- Mussolini himself is In many ways, a supporting character.

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Misnamed

Overall this was a good insight to Italy’s military involvement in WW2; however, there is almost nothing about Mussolini, his early years and the years leading up to the war that give any understanding of how he brought Italy into the war and then conducted it. To call this book Mussolini’s War is a complete misnomer.