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Caroline Moorehead interview

Caroline Moorehead interview

The Baillie Gifford Prize 2017 longlist

Caroline Moorehead talks to us about how she was looking to continue her series on resistance in longlisted book A Bold and Dangerous Family and reveals her favourite letters from the archive of letters written by Carlo and Nello to their 'Mammalina’.

What does it feel like to be longlisted?

It's a huge honour and a pleasure; I think of it as the best of prizes.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was looking for a story which would continue the series on resistance that I began with A Train in Winter and Village of Secrets; and I wanted to look at the Italian opposition to Mussolini. Then I chanced on a wonderful family, a mother and two sons with a vast cache of private letters, who had fought against Mussolini from the moment he took power, and paid dearly for their opposition to him.

How did you research?

Most of my research was done in archives in Italy. The Rosselli family had some 10,000 private letters, and there were many memoirs and papers scattered in personal archives around Italy. I followed the spies and the police activities through the National Archives in Rome.

For anyone who wants to explore the subject further, which book(s) would you recommend?

Any of the books by Richard Bosworth, Denis Mack Smith, Mimmo Franzinelli or Charles Delzell. 

Which was your favourite from the archive of letters Carlo and Nello wrote to their 'Mammalina'?

I loved the early ones, written when they were children; and some of the later ones, written from the penal colonies, full of insight and wisdom. They were also always very humorous and uncomplaining.

What are you working on next?

A second Italian book, this time following the story of four Italian women friends who joined the partisans in northern Italy for the 20 months of the civil war. Again, it will be based on letters, papers and interviews.

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