When I was younger I was obsessed with WWII and reading. This combination meant that every single novel I read around that time had something to do with the Second World War. For reference, think Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian; Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden; and, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
Obviously, my love for reading has not diminished and I am still fascinated by WWII. More recently, I read All the Light We Cannot See which I thought was brilliant. Now, because I am an Amazon Prime member, every month I get to choose a free, pre-release novel via ‘Kindle First’. This month I chose the novel Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan.
This novel is based on the true story of Pino Lella, an Italian teenager who is caught up in the atrocities of the Second World War. Despite visiting Italy multiple times, I admittedly don’t have much knowledge concerning what the country was like during the war. As such, I was interested to see how this novel would help fill that gap in my knowledge.
When we first meet Pino Lella he is an energetic, wistful young man wandering about the streets of Milan. Pino quickly becomes infatuated with a woman called Anna. However, as Allied bombs start to rain down on the city destroying buildings and killing innocent people, Pino is sent to the safety of the Alps by his parents. Whilst there, Pino and his younger brother risk their lives by helping Italian Jews escape over the mountains and into Switzerland.
Nonetheless, Pino cannot avoid the mayhem of the war forever. When he turns eighteen, Pino follows the advice of his parents and voluntarily enlists as a German soldier in an effort to avoid certain death on the front line. This is a difficult decision for a young man who despises the Nazi regime.
After an injury causes Pino to return home, he is selected to be the personal driver of General Hans Leyers, a powerful commander within the German Army. This turn of events leads Pino back to Anna who is working as Leyers’ maid. On the outside, Pino is an Italian Nazi in love with a German woman. Secretly, Pino is a spy working for the Allies and dreaming of a future beyond the war.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was written well and I was transported to a war-torn Italy without really noticing. It only took me a couple of days to finish this book because I just couldn’t put it down. Pino’s story is fascinating and I am surprised that it hasn’t received better coverage. Then again, I suppose there were thousands of heroes during the war that we will simply never have any knowledge of. Ultimately, this book is an easy read that does exactly what it says on the tin.
* Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sulllivan will be released on the 1st of May 2017.*