The Italian-English writer Origo has assembled portraits of four people she has known who were ethical and spiritually brave in connection with mid-20th-century Italy: Lauro de Bosis, Italian poet and cultural official who gave up his life to fly solo over Rome in 1933--he'd never flown before--and drop anti-fascist pamphlets; de Bosis' lover for a time, the famed monologist Ruth Draper; Italian anti-fascist historian Gaetano Salvemini; and the Christian-socialist novelist Ignazio Silone. Excepting Draper (who is here as a valiant and admirable helpmeet), each risked all for a political gestura, at the cost of some established position in life. De Bosis made the ultimate sacrifice, yet though Salvemini and Silone went on to establish relocated fame (Salvemini as an august Harvard professor, Silone as a popular realist), Origo stresses that they too put themselves at worldly disadvantages most people dare not risk. Origo writes fondly but blandly, depending on long swatches of others' previous writing: her personal relationships with her subjects were either slight or remain undeveloped. Courageous-people-I-have-known: convincing in its historical record, not very involving in its execution.