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Reviewed by Keyla Damaer for Readers' Favorite
His Most Italian City by Margaret Walker takes place at the dawn of the fascist era in Italy. After the Great War, a piece of land previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is given to Italy. For thousands of people, it meant changing nationality and citizenship in the blink of an eye, but the repercussions of those events affected more than just their documents. Matteo Brazzi is not a fascist because he believes in fascism or Mussolini but because, as a good businessman, he understands when the wind is changing. However, his actions affect other people, and when his office in Trieste is bombed, he takes the chance to leave the city and move to Cittanova in Istria, hoping that the past won’t come running after him again. But will that be enough?
As a background to this story, there’s Italy between the two wars. It’s a part of history I know a great deal about, growing up with my mother’s anecdotes (both in 1936 near Montecassino). The arrogance of the fascist is an old story to me, but I was curious to know more about Istria and that part of Italy barely mentioned in history books. His Most Italian City by Margaret Walker describes, without getting into gory details, what happened in daily routines of people living in Istria, of the ethnic cleansing the fascists tried to apply in the name of Italian purity. But this story is never disgusting, although Matteo Brazzi is not a nice character, and from a woman's point of view, his behavior towards everyone is indeed disgusting. Despite him, this is a great story, where violence is only implied most of the time, but with the fascists involved, you always know it’s there.