Because it was written for a young audience yet also firmly based on George Macaulay Trevelyan’s definitive, three-volume biography of Garibaldi—Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic (1907), Garibaldi and the Thousand (1909), and Garibaldi and the Making of Italy (1911)—Syme’s Garibaldi is at once very reliable and very accessible. By focusing strictly on Garibaldi himself and refusing to dramatize events beyond what can be ascertained from the sources, Syme has created a narrative that enjoys great textual clarity and places sure emphases on Garibaldi’s achievements.
A young reader who encounters Garibaldi and is captured by the charisma of Syme’s protagonist may feel compelled to search for, and finally fill in, the contextual blanks that Syme’s narrative deliberately leaves open. The comparison of Garibaldi with the men and the women of the American Revolution, only hinted at in Garibaldi, seems an almost inevitable next step. Thus, the message of Garibaldi’s life, finely highlighted by Syme, is that fighting for one’s ideals is worthwhile. This belief, to which Garibaldi dedicated his life, remains of great value.