Dense, encyclopedic biography of world-renowned intrepid proponent for Italian social justice.
A “strong and independent” boy born into a coastal trading family on July 4, 1807, in Nice, Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882) rejected his parents’ efforts to steer him toward the more distinguished career paths of a doctor or attorney and quickly learned the ranks of his father’s maritime livelihood (and officially set sail as an apprentice seaman) in his teens. Soon, though, his demanding work at sea was replaced with a heady interest in political activism, most notably with the Italian unification movement “Young Italy,” which was spearheaded by liberal reformist Giuseppe Mazzini, who would emerge as Garibaldi’s mentor. He abandoned a stint in the Sardinian navy in favor of a poorly organized insurrection and ended up in Brazil in 1835. This proved to be just the beginning of many causes the patriotic libertarian would become embroiled in; freeing people from the binds of tyranny and oppression became his life’s work. After engaging in land- and water-based warfare against the Brazilians, Garibaldi met his first wife, Anita, who bore him a son, Domenico, who also joined him on his missions. Adopting guerrilla warfare tactics both on land and at sea, he became a leader and hero in his continued support of exiles and emigrants in Montevideo, Uruguay, and in Italy, where he fought against the Austrians to defend the Roman Republic. After being exiled, he spent time in Tangiers, the United States and England, and moved on to fight in a resistance against a new French Republic. A serious injury prevented him from becoming a major general in the American Civil War’s Union Army, but a burgeoning writing career produced four novels and his memoirs. Scirocco frequently refers to Garibaldi’s autobiographical “memoirs” for direction within the narrative, but he depicts many events with a hazy, cautious speculation since dates and activities remain unclear even in Garibaldi’s own text. Still, the author does a serviceable job of commingling relevant historical factoids with the extraordinary life of this unwavering “quintessential hero.”
A stiff, workmanlike approach to the life of a noble figure.