I’ve been meaning to post this review for Beneath a Scarlet Sky for a couple of days now, but for one reason or another, I’ve not been able to sit down and get it written up. However now I have a spare moment, I’m determined to get my thoughts down.
It’s World War 2 and Pino Lella is a young man, living a normal life in Italy. He doesn’t have an awful lot to worry about on a day to day basis until his family home in Milan is bombed. He’s determine to join the fight and do some good, therefore joins a group helping to smuggle Jews out of Italy and into the Alps to safety. His parents fear for his safety and therefore demand that enlisting as a German soldier is the best option for him. At 18, Pino obeys his parents but soon finds himself in a situation he never could of imagined; spying on Hitler’s left hand man, General Leyers, on behalf of the Allies.
In a word, I found this book fascinating. It’s a true story which is nearly always guaranteed to interest me. Pino’s story is amazing, gripping, frightening and heart warming all at the same time. There were points in the book I found myself thinking “surely not! this has to be dramatised”, but it isn’t. It’s all true!!
My favourite character was inevitably Pino. I went through every emotional turmoil with that boy reading this book. The highs of him getting Jews over into Switzerland successfully, the lows of witnessing loved ones die at the hands of Nazis and the heartaches of a love that was never to destined to make it. Pino was so brave, so courageous and so smart. His efforts during WW2 may not have been in the battlefield, firing guns, but he did so much for his country.
I didn’t have a particular character that I didn’t like. The obvious choice is General Leyers, but I have to come clean and admit that I actually quite liked him (in some weird way). I don’t know if it was intended or not, but I finished this book with the impression that Leyers completed his job as just that, a job. I didn’t find him to be some raving lunatic, out to wipe out chunks of civilisation. Don’t get me wrong, I am firmly in agreement that his actions were inexcusable but I found him to very much be a follower of orders rather than a man that could step into Hitler’s shoes. There were moments I thought he was going to do the right thing (which sometimes he did) and disobey his orders from above.
I find it fascinating that Pino Lella has gone most of his life without breathing a word of his story and his history to anyone, until approached by Sullivan. I assume (and it’s a massive assumption, I don’t claim to be an avid historian) that there are many books out there of people’s war stories and the appalling things that they have gone through. It amazes me that Pino’s story is so close to people of such importance in history and has never been told before this book.
The only downside to my experience of this book is that I didn’t gobble it up. I didn’t soak up every word in a flurry and it’s taken me a while to get through it. I think its because I found the beginning quite slow, but if you do read this, stick with it. It’s quite simply AWESOME. A solid 4 stars for Sullivan’s brilliant telling of a hero’s heartbreaking story!