A harrowing account of life in Italy in the year leading up to World War II, available in the US for the first time. In 1939 it was not a foregone conclusion that Mussolini would enter World War II on the side of Hitler. In this previously unpublished and only recently discovered diary, Iris Origo, author of the classic War in Val d'Orcia, provides a vivid account of how Mussolini decided on a course of action that would devastate his country and ultimately destroy his regime.
Though the British-born Origo lived with her Italian husband on an estate in a remote part of Tuscany, she was supremely well-connected and regularly in touch with intellectual and diplomatic circles in Rome, where her godfather, William Phillips, was the American ambassador. Her diary describes the Fascist government's growing infatuation with Nazi Germany as Hitler's armies marched triumphantly across Europe and the campaign of propaganda and intimidation that was mounted in support of its new aims. The book ends with the birth of Origo's daughter and Origo's decision to go to Rome to work with prisoners of war at the Italian Red Cross.
Together with War in Val d'Orcia, A Chill in the Air offers an indispensable record of Italy at war as well as a thrilling story of a formidable woman's transformation from observer to actor at a great historical turning point.
Iris Origo (1902-1988) was a British-born biographer and writer. She lived in Italy and devoted much of her life to the improvement of the Tuscan estate at La Foce, which she purchased with her husband in the 1920s. During the Second World War, she sheltered refugee children and assisted many escaped Allied prisoners of war and partisans in defiance of Italy's fascist regime and Nazi occupation forces. She is the author of Images and Shadows; A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939-1940; Leopardi: A Study in Solitude; and The Merchant of Prato, among others. Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a prizewinning historian and novelist. Her nonfiction book The Pike: Gabriele D'Annunzio was the winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, and the Costa Biography Award. She lives in London and Suffolk.
Katia Lysy, a granddaughter of Iris Origo, has worked in publishing and as a journalist and translator. She lives between Rome and southern Tuscany, where she assists her mother, Benedetta, in the management of La Foce.