Classifying this book is no easy feat. Most of the time it reads like a fictional novel but - especially if you are Italian or a foreigner who’s well acquainted with contemporary Italian history and culture - you’ll be thrilled and quite upset by the fact that the characters portrayed are real life people such as Mussolini, Giolitti, D’annunzio, Sarfatti, Balbo, Togliatti, Kuliscioff, Marinetti, Gramsci or Matteotti, who had a tremendous impact on the events of that period in Italy, in Europe and worldwide as well.
Most of the chapters are supported by official documents, telegrams, letters, articles and recordings, which might temporarily interrupt the flow of the plot, but at the same time contribute to increase the sense of authenticity of the events narrated.
Fascism is exposed as the complex web of opportunism, ideology, determination, violence, brutality, polarizing energy, tactical and strategic skills, political void, unscrupulousness and government blunders that managed to turn its founding father, Benito Mussolini, from a passionate socialist journalist and activist into a ruthless right wing dictator. A process that will contribute to mold Italian society, inspire German Nazism and Spanish Francoism, precipitate the European crisis that triggered World War II (Mussolini had already tipped the Italian public opinion from neutrality to intervention during WWI) and serve as an ideological model for extreme right wing factions all over the world to this day.
A page turner if you, like myself, are a history buff. A must read if you want to learn about the subject but are not much into academic essays.