Don’t MISS this one! I was completely mesmerized by every page! No wonder this bestseller has more than 20 thousand reviews on Amazon, 83% of which award it five stars. I also gave it five stars on Goodreads.
This is a exceptionally well-crafted novel focused on one courageous Italian teenager during the final two years of World War II. Based on a true story and constructed from hours of interviews and detailed research by Author Mark Sullivan, this book recounts the truly remarkable story of Pino Lella, coming of age in Milan, just as the tide of the war begins to turn against the Axis powers.
The brutality of Nazi occupation, the declining influence of Mussolini and the Italian Fascists, the random imprisonment and torture by SS agents, and the desperate efforts parents make to save their children– it’s all here. And, sitting in the middle is Pino, just another unremarkable young man, who simply wants his family to survive treacherous times.
Though Pino does not seek out danger, he nevertheless finds himself facing situations that force him to explore what he is capable of. And through this one boy’s eyes and adventures, we get to witness so many of the dismal realities of war — shortages, personal betrayals, random death and destruction, and hidden heroism.
The characters are richly developed, much more than simply good or bad people. They are all three dimensional. Family members, too quick to judge, wind up disowning and endangering their own. Catholic churchmen appear to work alongside Nazis while secretly savings the lives of Jewish refugees. And love blooms in unlikely places. It’s a sobering but realistic glimpse into both the worst and best people are capable of, when desperate to survive.
And somewhat surprisingly it doesn’t end with the ending of the war. Deprived Italian citizens, incoming American soldiers, and Nazis war criminals suddenly eager to collaborate help define a city desperate for revenge.
BENEATH A SCARLET SKY is a true page-turner, all the more because it’s a true story. I found this a gripping, rich and thoughtful read that left me thinking about both the events and people, long after I closed the book. Be sure to read the author’s Afterword to find out what becomes of all the people you have just read about. It makes a delicious finale and helps provide resolution for all the emotions that will get stirred up!
More about the author Mark Sullivan.
You may be interested in my review of another historical novel by Sullivan, THE LAST GREEN VALLEY.