Il Duce: The Rise and Fall of Benito Mussolini

Richard B. Lyttle, Author Atheneum Books $15.95 (213p) ISBN 978-0-689-31213-7
This watery biography of the Italian dictator is so sloppy that it translates duce (in English, leader), Mussolini's famous title, as duke. Moreover, in a summation of World War I, Lyttle omits the Russian Empire from the list of key nation-combatants, and describes the war as ""basically'' pitting England and France against Germany and Austria-Hungary. These are only some of the obvious and astounding mistakes in this book. In addition to such factual errata, there is a problem of historical interpretation: too often Lyttle exaggerates in a simplistic way. For example, when Mussolini took power in the early 1920s, Lyttle would have readers believe that the ruling class wasn't interested in its fate: ``Influential Italians, busy trying to take advantage of prosperity, did not pay much attention to changes in government.'' Lyttle provides only a handful of direct quotations and breezes over Mussolini's byzantine personal life. Il Duce was a complex, doubt-filled political figure who led a tumultuous lifea marvelous subject for biographybut Lyttle avoids delving into Mussolini the man and prefers to describe his actions weakly and from afar. Ages 12-up. (October)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
Genre: Children's
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