... meticulous research and eye for human detail ... This is a rich telling of some complex but fascinating history, not solely addressing the female story, but including it within the whole ... It is, however, Moorehead’s sensitive use of the inspiring if sometimes harrowing stories of Ada and her female comrades, Frida Malan, Silvia Pons and Bianca Serra, and the Jewish and partisan circles around them, including that of Primo Levi, that really brings new insight to this account of the liberation of Italy. A useful chronology and list of the principal characters, of which there are many, helps readers to keep track ... This brilliant book restores women to the heart of the Italian resistance story, making clear that they performed all the same activities as the men, while facing precisely the same dangers, if with supplementary goals ... This, at last, is their powerful story.
... [a] gripping story ... A House in the Mountains is exhaustively researched, which makes for some tough reading. The number of people, political parties and publications will challenge readers new to this phase of the war. But Moorehead artfully builds the tension as liberation approaches and partisans make a desperate last stand. She commiserates with her main characters when peace finally arrives and the new Italy looks 'very like the old one.'
Dramatic, heartbreaking and sweeping in scope, Ms. Moorehead’s book charts the experiences of these women in the wider context of the war in Italy ... In the countless memoirs written by men about the occupation, Ms. Moorehead notes, women are rarely mentioned. That the partisan brigades depended on female combatants who risked their lives every day is glossed over. At last, this important, meticulously researched book tells their story.
... the book has a huge supporting cast: some are familiar because of later literary exploits (Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzurg and Oriana Fallaci), but even the minor characters—like the stubbornly kind nun of the city’s gruesome prison—are memorably portrayed ... The narrative is told with such verve that I frequently had goosebumps ... The melancholy coda, recounting what happened to the women—accidents, politicking, writing and addiction—completes a riveting read.
The book is sweeping in its scope ... Moorehead skilfully weaves these threads of individual stories together to create a web of interconnected lives, visiting and revisiting key individuals and relating them to one another ... This broad narrative is dotted with flashes of detail; the colour of a piece of clothing, the wording of a letter, or the contents of an otherwise unremarkable suitcase. These details bring the stories to life and pull the reader into even more sympathy with the bravery and often harsh fates of the partisans. The book is brutal at times, and Moorehead does not shy away from detailing the atrocious acts of torture and violence carried out by the Fascists ... Moorehead captures a sense of hope and vitality among the women of the Resistance ... an often overlooked story that 'needs to be told'—and she tells it well.
Moorehead tries not to sensationalise this story; she recognises the importance of ordinary things. She appreciates that what made these women special was their resilience and fortitude. This is a sensitive and perceptive book founded on an appreciation of the role women play in any society, at any time. It is sober and serious, but still an easy read. Those looking for sensational tales of lascivious female warriors who fight and fornicate will be disappointed.
It doesn’t have the tragic drama and driving narrative of A Train in Winter; instead, it’s chiefly a character piece, a collection of vignettes about these women going about a serious business, and relying on one another for their very lives ... But most of all, “A House in the Mountains” is a story of friendship, 'about how much women have in common with each other, and what they can achieve when they work together.'
Moorehead paints a wonderfully vivid and moving portrait of the women of the Italian Resistance ... I am doubtful, however, whether she entirely justifies the claim in her subtitle, that they 'liberated Italy from fascism.' The allied armies did that. Although partisans played a useful marginal role in many theatres of war, nowhere did they alter fundamentals: outcomes were determined by the big battalions ... She depicts a tragic fate that is timeless, of dreams forged in adversity, shattered by collisions with practical politics.
... [a] deeply moving, beautifully told history ... as we near the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of WWII, Moorehead has restored [women's] achievements and those of the Italian resistance to view in this superb and significant chronicle.
... [an] exciting narrative ... This is a highly satisfying conclusion to the author’s series. Excellent, well-presented evidence of the incalculable strengths and abilities of women to create and run a country.
... an overly dense account ... She uncovers many fascinating stories, but she bogs the narrative down with secondary characters and accounts of well-known events. History buffs will wish this promising account had a sharper focus.