There seems to be a trend of dramatic WWII novels using dramatic colored clouds for the cover (RE: All the Light We Cannot See). Certainly makes it stand out on a bookshelf. But it’s what’s inside that counts.
In 1943, WWII hasn’t really touched 17-year old Italian Pino Lella’s life yet. But it will. And it will drag everything he loves into it as well.
And that’s about as much as I want to summarize. In fact, I encourage you to not read the back blurb of this book. Just enjoy the amazing, incredible journey this (supposedly) true story is about. Beneath A Scarlet Sky is technically nonfiction. Author Mark Sullivan was alerted to a man who’s amazing story had yet to be told. He thought that the best way to do it justice was to write the story as if it were a novel.
A slow start careens into a page-turner. The sheer amount of things that happen in this book is amazing. Pino led an incredible life in the two years of the war the book delves into. You might find yourself screaming at it: no more, please. By the end, this novel will rip your heart out and execute it on the side of the road. It doesn’t care for your sensibilities, because this is the stuff that happened in wartime Milan. The horror, the barbarity, the heroics. And the aftermath.
I reluctantly knock the novel for a few writing critiques. Some dialogue feels forced and fake. Clearly added to make the story coherent. But the rest is superb. Trust me, this will be a movie within the next ten years.
3.5 out of 4 stars.