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Old 09-28-2012, 10:21 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
14,017 posts, read 18,915,960 times
Reputation: 32439

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Just finished a biography of Gino Bartali entitled "Road to Valor" by Aili and Andres McConnon (2012). My thread title is the subtitle of the book. What an amazing tale, meticulously researched and heavily foot-noted (that may sound dull, but the book is a page-turner), of the Italian who won the Tour de France in 1938 at age 23 and then repeated the feat in 1948 as an "old man" of 33. After the 1928 victory, Bartali refused to thank Mussolini in his acceptance speech, such thanks being considered de rigeur at the time. That ten years remains the longest interval between any cyclist's two Tour de France victories. While the coverage of those two races is fascinating in its own right, it is the story, largely unknown for a long time after the war, of Bartali's courageous work as a courier for the Italian Catholic underground in the attempt to save the lives of Italian Jews which I found especially riveting.

This quietly courageous and decent man risked his life as a courier (using his bicycle and hiding photographs and documents in its frame tubes) providing the delivery service, under the noses of the Nazis, for photographs and forged identity documents to and from Florence and Assisi (where a printer created the documents) at the behest of Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. Many Italian Jews owe their lives to that network.

The war was hard on the populace. Bartali's wife, pregnant with their second child, suffered (like everyone else) from malnutrition and stress and the child was still-born. Amid war-time curfews, Gino Bartali had a neighbor make a tiny wooden coffin, which he carried under his arm on his bicycle to the cemetery.

The story of the interface between Italian politics in 1948 and the Tour de France of that same year is also amazing. As Italy teetered on the brink of civil war in the aftermath of the assasination attempt on Italian Communist leader Togliatti, the Italian prime minister De Gasperi telephoned Bartali in France midway through the race to implore him to somehow achieve a victory (he was behind at the time) in the hope of improving the desperate and grim mood of the nation. His victory did seem to accomplish that and the violence ceased. A causal connection of that sort is impossible to prove, of course, and the authors do not claim to have proved it, although they did convince me.

I think "Road to Valor" would be an excellent read even for those uninterested in bicycle racing. There is just so much else - Italian politics and sociology, human drama. Two thumbs up from here.

Note: I am always torn between posting my little book reviews in the Book Forum or in the History Forum (if they have to do with history). There is a C-D rule against double posting; I normally come down on the side of the History Forum. Any feedback on this?
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Old 09-29-2012, 07:48 PM
 
Location: Miami, FL
8,088 posts, read 8,460,139 times
Reputation: 6650
Book forum is primarily for readers of fiction. Historical titles are best appreciated here in my opinion.
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Old 09-30-2012, 05:19 PM
 
Location: Plymouth,Michigan/Quad Cities, (IA/IL)
364 posts, read 676,454 times
Reputation: 456
Quote:
Originally Posted by Escort Rider View Post
Just finished a biography of Gino Bartali entitled "Road to Valor" by Aili and Andres McConnon (2012). My thread title is the subtitle of the book. What an amazing tale, meticulously researched and heavily foot-noted (that may sound dull, but the book is a page-turner), of the Italian who won the Tour de France in 1938 at age 23 and then repeated the feat in 1948 as an "old man" of 33. After the 1928 victory, Bartali refused to thank Mussolini in his acceptance speech, such thanks being considered de rigeur at the time. That ten years remains the longest interval between any cyclist's two Tour de France victories. While the coverage of those two races is fascinating in its own right, it is the story, largely unknown for a long time after the war, of Bartali's courageous work as a courier for the Italian Catholic underground in the attempt to save the lives of Italian Jews which I found especially riveting.

This quietly courageous and decent man risked his life as a courier (using his bicycle and hiding photographs and documents in its frame tubes) providing the delivery service, under the noses of the Nazis, for photographs and forged identity documents to and from Florence and Assisi (where a printer created the documents) at the behest of Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. Many Italian Jews owe their lives to that network.

The war was hard on the populace. Bartali's wife, pregnant with their second child, suffered (like everyone else) from malnutrition and stress and the child was still-born. Amid war-time curfews, Gino Bartali had a neighbor make a tiny wooden coffin, which he carried under his arm on his bicycle to the cemetery.

The story of the interface between Italian politics in 1948 and the Tour de France of that same year is also amazing. As Italy teetered on the brink of civil war in the aftermath of the assasination attempt on Italian Communist leader Togliatti, the Italian prime minister De Gasperi telephoned Bartali in France midway through the race to implore him to somehow achieve a victory (he was behind at the time) in the hope of improving the desperate and grim mood of the nation. His victory did seem to accomplish that and the violence ceased. A causal connection of that sort is impossible to prove, of course, and the authors do not claim to have proved it, although they did convince me.

I think "Road to Valor" would be an excellent read even for those uninterested in bicycle racing. There is just so much else - Italian politics and sociology, human drama. Two thumbs up from here.

Note: I am always torn between posting my little book reviews in the Book Forum or in the History Forum (if they have to do with history). There is a C-D rule against double posting; I normally come down on the side of the History Forum. Any feedback on this?
Thanks for the review! This book is on my Amazon wishlist. I will definitely be purchasing it soon!
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Old 10-01-2012, 12:19 AM
 
Location: Central Illinois -
25,739 posts, read 16,671,100 times
Reputation: 19844
I heard about this book when it came out, right before the Tour de France. Sports Illustrated gave it a rave review. Definitely want to read this book!
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Old 10-03-2012, 10:24 PM
 
4,048 posts, read 5,669,364 times
Reputation: 4507
Thanks for the information. I see that this book on Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more has earned a high 4.5 star rating, and 63 reader reviews there about it.
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Old 10-10-2012, 12:12 PM
 
Location: the Beaver State
6,466 posts, read 12,207,260 times
Reputation: 3551
Wow! Added to my "to read" list! Thanks for the review.
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