Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan– 524 pages
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior. In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders. Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
My Review: 4 stars
Beneath A Scarlet Sky was a moving story about Pino Lella, a long forgotten Italian resistance hero in WW2. Author Mark Sullivan was lucky enough to have this story fall into his lap, which encouraged him to research Pino’s story at length and hear it all first hand. Due to the meticulous research, the sights and sounds were brought to life with extreme detail. Hiking up the Alps to Switzerland had me breathless at times and actually brought on an imagined chill.
This is the first book that I both listened to in the car and read the physical book when I was at home. At first it was a little tricky, but I soon got used to the switch and really enjoyed it. This book offered the reader an inside look at how Italy got through the war. So many books with WW2 as a time period focus on Russia, Germany, England, France, Serbia, Austria and more. Of course Italy has been in books as well, yet understanding how Milan fit into the war was so interesting. I learned so much about Milan so of course, it hit my bucket list of places to visit.
Pino Lella is a character in which the truth is stranger than fiction. He is a man with nine lives or maybe even more. He’s charismatic, handsome, brave, strong, loyal and just. His story would be unbelievable if it weren’t true. As much as I loved Pino and his life during the last few years of the war, the book was written as if it were a biography. The third person POV kept me at a slight distance from the story as it was told with exacting details as a reporter might use. I may be one of the few that found this a bit disturbing however it did cause me pause at some points.
Real stories were revealed about Hitler and Mussolini that just amazed me. Pino saw it all and thankfully was able to recall so much of it to Sullivan. This book had romance, friendship, loyalty and courage at its heart. This one has been a wild hit for fans of historical fiction.
Quotes I liked:
“Isn’t it strange how life is always taking you to places and to people you’re supposed to see and meet?”
-“You know, my young friend, I will be ninety years old next year, and life is still a constant surprise to me. We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose. Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day, no matter how flawed.”
-“The best thing is to grieve for the people you loved and lost, and then welcome and love the new people life puts in front of you.”
-“Sometimes happiness comes to us. But usually you have to seek it out.”