BENITO MUSSOLINI A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History Limited is a book from a series of factual biographies meant to be read in about an hour. A reader can figure that out from the author credit. It gives readers like me; a fan of horror, crime fiction, and bizarre novels in general, a break from a guilty pleasure and gives me the illusion I am reading serious stuff. It is true that the material is serious but to fulfill its stated reason for existing, it must necessarily be a surface treatment of the subject. Can you imagine a one-hour treatment of the life of Winston Churchill? This series may have such a work but I won’t read it. Some subjects are more appropriate for a survey work. In my opinion, this is one of those.
There are some interesting things written about Mussolini in this book that may contradict some popularly held beliefs. The idea that the “trains must run on time” has been many times written as a phrase of German origin. However, Mussolini was talking about railroad and post office inefficiencies when he noted that if even these functions could not be administered efficiently, the nation should not have much hope in fixing some of the bigger issues such as the national economy.
Many instances of waffling in decision making are given. Of course there was political waffling but Mussolini was able to reach a point of power that his political flexibility affected military policy and civil bureaucratic government. Mussolini followed a winding political path from Socialism to Marxism through International Socialism to Nationalism which in its final authoritarian form would be called Fascism. A population in chaos due to economic upheavals caused in part by WWI looked for a better life. Which movement offered them the best deal. What did all these words mean? Mussolini was available to explain and define these terms. If they needed more appeal, he would supply the necessary modifiers.
Some readers may not be aware that Hitler was affected by Mussolini’s speeches and writings before Hitler himself came to power. Many more readers are probably aware of the disappointment that Mussolini became for Hitler. The low point may have been when Hitler’s troops had to rescue Mussolini from confinement. Mussolini’s end foreshadowed the fate of other dictators who fell out of favor with and incurred the wrath of their populace. The leader of Romania and his wife would meet a very similar end to the one of Mussolini and his wife, although several years later and in a different, colder war.
As advertised, this account can be read in one hour. I found no typos or grammar mistakes. I was amazed at this after reading other reviewer comments on Amazon. Perhaps I read an improved or re-edited copy. That has happened once before for me when I wrote a rather scathing review about the lack of respect for the reader the writer exhibited by not using the most basic spell checking program. I later read an apology from the writer in a discussion forum where the errors were explained and a corrected version was published.
The table of contents was interesting with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. One chapter title was The Good, The Bad, and The Duce. Overall, this was a pleasant break from my normal direction of reading. I will recommend that my high school son read it and the short read will probably be a part of a history class homework project.