Mussolini's Daughter: The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe (Paperback)
A thrilling biography of Edda Mussolini—Benito Mussolini’s favorite daughter, one of the most influential women in 1930s Europe—and a heart-stopping account of the unraveling of the Fascist dream in Italy, from award-winning historian and author of the acclaimed Resistance Quartet, Caroline Moorehead
“Reads like a page-turning thriller.”—BookPage
Edda Mussolini was the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s oldest and favorite child. At 19, she was married to Count Galleazzo Ciano, Il Duce’s Minister for Foreign Affairs during the 1930s, the most turbulent decade in Italy’s fascist history. In the years preceding World War II, Edda ruled over Italy’s aristocratic families and the cultured and middle classes while selling Fascism on the international stage. How a young woman wielded such control is the heart of Moorehead’s fascinating history. The issues that emerge reveal not only a great deal about the power of fascism, but also the ease with which dictatorship so easily took hold in a country weakened by war and a continent mired in chaos and desperate for peace.
Drawing on a wealth of archival material, some newly released, along with memoirs and personal papers, Mussolini’s Daughter paints a portrait of a woman in her twenties whose sheer force of character and ruthless narcissism helped impose a brutal and vulgar movement on a pliable and complicit society. Yet as Moorehead shows, not even Edda’s colossal willpower, her scheming, nor her father’s avowed love could save her husband from Mussolini’s brutal vengeance.
As she did in her Resistance Quartet, Moorehead delves deep into the past, exploring what fascism felt like to those living under it, how it blossomed and grew, and how fascists and aristocrats joined forces to pursue ten years of extravagance, amorality, and excessive luxury—greed, excess, and ambition that set the world on fire. The result is a powerful portrait of a young woman who played a key role in one of the most terrifying and violent periods in human history.
Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of the Resistance Quartet, which includes A Bold and Dangerous Family, Village of Secrets, and A Train in Winter, as well as Human Cargo, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. An acclaimed biographer, she has written for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, and The Independent. She lives in London and Italy.
“The narrative trajectory is something like a cross between a Martin Scorsese film and a Greek tragedy: the omnipotence, partying and carnal escapades slowly give way to feuding, executions and revenge killings. . . . It’s a testament to Moorehead’s precise, empathic prose that Edda emerges not as the Duce’s devilish scion, but as a wounded, fragile being. . . . There is nuance and paradox: [Edda] appears not only an enabler and beneficiary of fascist crimes, but also their victim. It makes for a profoundly satisfying, albeit wistful, read.” — The Guardian
“Caroline Moorehead writes with her characteristic elegance, eye for detail, and authoritative knowledge about a monster and a survivor. The story of Mussolini’s glamorous daughter is certainly a fascinating one.” — Miranda Seymour, author of Mary Shelley
“Painstakingly researched and vividly told, this engrossing history turns the spotlight on the deeply conflicted Edda Mussolini, brilliantly balancing the big picture with a wealth of telling detail.” — Clare Mulley, author of The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville
“Timely. . . . An engrossing portrait of a young woman forced to become a public figure. . . . Moorehead has a spirited turn of phrase, a keen eye for the telling detail and pungent quote and a gift for marshaling complex material.” — The New York Review of Books
"Interesting and original . . . . Moorehead is a fine writer and a conscientious historian." — The Spectator (UK)
"Wide-ranging and compelling . . . this book will take a leading place in all studies of the reality of Fascism and all authoritarianism." — Richard Bosworth, author of Mussolini and the Eclipse of Italian Fascism
"Edda was a key player in a tragedy whose plot was so extraordinary that the ancient Greeks would have been seriously proud had they thought of it, and Moorehead tells it well." — The Telegraph (UK)
“Moorehead’s clear, compelling prose and sure-handed grasp of historical events combine to make Mussolini’s Daughter read like a page-turning thriller, one that will have special appeal for readers fascinated by European history, World War II and the conditions that gave rise to fascism.” — BookPage
"Readers of early 20th-century Italian political history should enjoy." — Library Journal
“A powerful portrait of a young woman who played a key role in one of the most terrifying and violent periods in human history." — Bookreporter.com
"Enthralling . . . . [Moorehead] brilliantly sketches the background of Mussolini and his regime, along with its deservedly bathetic end. Moorehead’s readers can savour the characters of Edda and her family but also learn a great deal about the nature of Europe’s first modern dictatorship." — Literary Review (UK)
“Highly readable . . . a fascinating mesh of the personal and the political.” — Toronto Star
“Gripping. . . . Meticulous research. . . . Moorehead excels in describing the role played by intellectual and aristocratic circles.” — History Today
“Caroline Moorehead creates with her trademark narrative elegance and authoritative attention to detail this portrait of a complicated, at times cruel, woman. . . . Engrossing and enraging, Mussolini’s Daughter is in the end a balanced portrait of a woman who not only benefited from fascist crimes but was also a victim of them.” — NOW Toronto
“A timely reminder of fascism’s sinister allure.” — Winnipeg Free Press