A Bold and Dangerous Family

The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Sons, and Their Fight Against Fascism

Publisher: Random House Canada
From the bestselling author of A Train in Winter, the story of the Rosselli family, whose courage standing up to Mussolini's fascism helped define the path of Italy in the years between the World Wars.

"I had a house: they destroyed it. I had a newspaper: they closed it. I had a university chair: I was forced to abandon it. I had--as I still do--dreams, dignity, ideals: to defend them I was sent to prison. I had teachers: they murdered them."
--Carlo Rosselli on Italy's fascist regime
     Italy's Rosselli family were members of the cosmopolitan, cultural elite in Florence at the start of the 20th century. Led by their fierce matriarch, Amelia Rosselli, they were also vocal anti-fascists. As Mussolini rose to power in Italy following WWI, the Rossellis took leading roles in the rebellion against him, a stance that few in their class would risk. And when Mussolini established a police state whose tactics grew more brutal, the Rossellis and their anti-fascist friends transformed from debaters and critics into activists.
     As punishment for their participation in revolutionary activities, the Rossellis' homestead was ransacked, one after another of their number was imprisoned, others in the family fled the country to escape a similar fate, and two were eventually assassinated on the orders of Mussolini's government. After the outbreak of WWII, Amelia fled with the remaining members of the Rosselli family to New York City. Their visas were arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt herself.
     Through the stories of these brave people and their friends, renowned historian Caroline Moorehead delivers an immersive picture of Italy in the first half of the 20th century. She reveals the rise and fall of Mussolini and his black-shirted Squadristi; the ambivalence of many prominent Italian families to Mussolini and their seduction by his promises; and the bold, fractured anti-fascist movement, so many of whose members died at Mussolini's hands. Continuing "The Resistance Quartet" she began with A Train in Winter and continued with Village of Secrets, Moorehead once again shows us the faces of those who helped the world hold on to its humanity at a time when it seemed all might be lost.


Longlisted for the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 

A Bold and Dangerous Family is a haunting reminder of the fragility of liberty and the dangers of complaisance.” —The Times
“Expertly alternating vivid domestic detail with lucid exposition of the gradual evolution of totalitarianism, Caroline Moorehead allows her readers not only to know, but also to feel, how it was to endure fascist oppression. . . . A Bold and Dangerous Family is animated by the evident admiration and affection [Moorehead] feels for her subjects. It feels like the book she was born to write.” —Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author of The Pike, The Guardian

“Lucid, readable and superbly titled biography . . . there are numerous passages that hum with life. . . . Like any good biography, A Bold and Dangerous Family is about far more than its subjects. . . . Moorehead’s portrait of the Rosselli brothers is at once a political history of pre-second world war Italy, a literary portrait of two brave young men, and a gripping tale of intrigue, espionage and escape. . . . There have been a number of fine books about the Rossellis . . . none have been this well-structured, this readable, this involved in their lives. I finished it impressed, breathless and enormously moved.” —Observer
“Moorehead recounts a story that deserves to [be] better known, exploiting her remarkable understanding of the nation and its culture.” —Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

“Carefully, and with considerable skill, Moorehead juxtaposes the growth into maturity of the intelligent Florentines, Carlo and Nello, with a vivid account of the turbulent conditions that enabled Fascism to take root.” —The Daily Telegraph

“A major contribution to the study of anti-Fascism, further enriched by Caroline Moorehead’s vivid portrayal of interwar Italy and Europe.” —Jonathan Keates, Literary Review

“Caroline Moorehead, a distinguished biographer and historian, tells the story of the Rosselli brothers and their mother Amelia, a playwright, with sensitivity, erudition and balance. . . . Moorehead’s book is a fine tribute.” —Financial Times


“Riveting.” —The New Yorker

“Moorehead tells fascinating stories of hardship and hope, bad luck and good, while detailing the close calls and the bravery of those standing up and doing what they felt was right in order to spare the lives of hundreds of fellow humans, no matter their religion.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“[Moorehead’s] book . . . is riven with complexity. . . . Her war is not so much about heroes and monsters. Instead, she sees ordinary people responding in different ways to a world of cruelty.” —The Daily Telegraph 

“Moorehead does an expert job in pulling together testimonies from survivors to filter myths and memories from fact to retell an extraordinary tale.” —Daily Mail
“The story has been told before, but. . . . Caroline Moorehead’s retelling is broader and more nuanced. . . . Vivid narrative. . . . It’s a rich, haunting account that leaves us with an uncomfortable question: What might have happened if more people had refused to go along?” —StarTribune
Compelling and deeply informed. . . . [Moorehead] has done us the great service of unveiling the real lives behind the myth and in demonstrating that fallible human beings are far more interesting and dramatic figures than those who make up the stuff of legends.” —The New York Times
“Moorehead not only recounts the heroics but also the everyday ordinariness of those involved, busting the embellished mythology while emphasizing the essential humanity of the entire operation.” —Booklist
“Gripping. . . . Rigorously researched and well-balanced.” —The Guardian


“[Moorehead] knows how to grip the reader’s attention and haunt their dreams. . . . [She] is unafraid to look into the darkest corners of the world and make us want to look too.” —Daily Telegraph

“The breadth of Moorehead’s reporting is impressive, the intimate glimpses of struggle and resilience indelible.” —O, The Oprah Magazine