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Reviewed by Steven Robson for Readers' Favorite
The Italian Couple by J. R. Rogers comprises Colonel Francesco Ferrazza, a man ruthlessly driven to advance his military career, and his English wife, Emilia, who was raised in an era where marriage is sacrosanct and wives had a duty to follow their husbands in all things. Having negotiated several postings in the period prior to the Second World War, this couple finds themselves packed off to Eritrea, an Italian colony in East Africa, where they will be based in its capital Asmara; a city slated to be Mussolini’s Little Rome of Africa. This is a place of colonial snobbery, where privileged Italians quaff lattes as the native population shambles to their labors under the boots of their oppressors, trying to eke out their survival. All that stands between the Colonel’s current posting and his dream of making General back in Italy is a highly secret mission, which has been assigned to him from the highest authorities; a task that will make or break the future of this Italian couple.
J. R. Rogers’ The Italian Couple: Intrigue, Deception and Sabotage in Mussolini's Italian Eritrea is quite an engrossing story that portrays the period and locales of the 1930s deftly and builds character personalities very effectively. Emilia’s character was particularly well constructed, and it was evident how she was torn in a number of directions: the pressures of society, her status, her marriage, the compromises she was forced to endure, and her strong feelings for her family and loved ones, all bearing down on her emotional wellbeing. Added to the wonderful complexity of all these physical and psychological threads, we find a secret operation that has an uncertain origin and an equally uncertain outcome; a project that throws unlikely participants together in surprising and dangerous ways. Reading The Italian Couple, there is a certain inevitability that seems to come forth, where the futility of some endeavors is only transcended by the tragedy that follows.