Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours. 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.Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky Details

TitleBeneath a Scarlet Sky
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 1st, 2017
PublisherLake Union Publishing
ISBN-139781503943377
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War, World War II

Beneath a Scarlet Sky Review

  • Philip
    January 1, 1970
    2ish stars.Based on the experiences of Pino Lella, an unsung WWII hero, the events at the heart of this book are incredible and inspiring. Sullivan, though obviously well-meaning, presents them here in what is more or less a bloated, commercialized, color-by-number hagiography.Somehow present at just about as many significant events during WWII as one can be, Pino deftly overcomes every obstacle in his path. While - again - incredible and inspiring, there's not much in the way of tension or susp 2ish stars.Based on the experiences of Pino Lella, an unsung WWII hero, the events at the heart of this book are incredible and inspiring. Sullivan, though obviously well-meaning, presents them here in what is more or less a bloated, commercialized, color-by-number hagiography.Somehow present at just about as many significant events during WWII as one can be, Pino deftly overcomes every obstacle in his path. While - again - incredible and inspiring, there's not much in the way of tension or suspense, especially for a book styled as a WWII thriller. The pacing is inconsistent; some horrific, gut-wrenching events are bizarrely skimmed over, while other insignificant ones are unnecessarily drawn out. I suppose all of these things can be forgiven - there are only so many liberties one can take with (what we’re led to believe is) a (partially) fact-based story - but I could never get over the weak, awkward dialogue and amateurish prose.Ultimately a worthy tale and a worthy effort to tell it. But while the story is incredible and inspiring, the book in which it gets told is only alright.Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
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  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    2 1/2 stars. This should be a fascinating story, but, unfortunately, the writing is poor. I would even say it's repetitive, juvenile and boring. It's nowhere near as engaging as I would expect from a book that has a 4.4 average rating over 48,000+ readers.The strength of Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes from it's exploration of the Italian experience under Mussolini during the Second World War. I know almost nothing about what happened here, despite having read A LOT of books and memoirs set during t 2 1/2 stars. This should be a fascinating story, but, unfortunately, the writing is poor. I would even say it's repetitive, juvenile and boring. It's nowhere near as engaging as I would expect from a book that has a 4.4 average rating over 48,000+ readers.The strength of Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes from it's exploration of the Italian experience under Mussolini during the Second World War. I know almost nothing about what happened here, despite having read A LOT of books and memoirs set during this time. I've read countless tales about the Germans, Polish, the British and the Americans, so it was extremely refreshing to get a new perspective.Also, Sullivan interviewed the real Pino Lella - the protagonist of this book - and based much of the story on his tales and memories. It is a fictionalized, much-embellished true story, which makes it even more effective to many, I'm sure. That being said, the writing really does leave something to be desired. Writing style is not something I comment on too often, but it was obvious to me as soon as I began reading that - at the very least - Beneath a Scarlet Sky could have done with some extra rounds of (heavy) editing.And I know that the author's starting disclaimer is basically a cute way of saying "Look, some parts are absolute bullshit that I made up to make the story more interesting" but my suspension of disbelief was strained a bit when Pino's life becomes something of a superhero tale. Dramatic event after dramatic event unfolds, and I feel that if a young guy really did do half the things Pino Lella apparently did then he would be as famous as Harry Potter. Not the long-forgotten star of a semi-biographical novel.The history is interesting. The story is, on occasion, compelling. But true, semi-true, maybe true? Yeah, I'm not convinced.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Pouting Always
    January 1, 1970
    I know I've been gone, but I'm back now so don't worry I'll be clogging your feeds with my garbage reviews again now. I already started reading my next book.A semi biographical story about an Italian teenager Pino Lella who is sent to a convent after Allied forces airstrike destroys his home in Milan. At the convent he helps the priest smuggle out Jews to Switzerland who have come there for help. He meets and falls in love with Anna, an older widow. Eventually he is called home and made to join I know I've been gone, but I'm back now so don't worry I'll be clogging your feeds with my garbage reviews again now. I already started reading my next book.A semi biographical story about an Italian teenager Pino Lella who is sent to a convent after Allied forces airstrike destroys his home in Milan. At the convent he helps the priest smuggle out Jews to Switzerland who have come there for help. He meets and falls in love with Anna, an older widow. Eventually he is called home and made to join the army for protection. Eventually he uses his position in the army as a driver to one of the most powerful German generals to spy for the Allies. There are so many positive reviews for this book but I honestly hated it. It was difficult for me to finish this book. I have been busy and not had as much time to read but at the same time this book was part of the reason I haven't read anything in weeks because it was just so boring that I didn't even feel like reading really, it felt like torture reading it. I don't think it was the story itself that was the problem but the execution. It was painfully boring and the author just kept telling and not showing us anything or illustrating things for us. There was no suspense built up and I felt zero attachment to any of the characters, even though they're real people. This has to be one of the hardest books I've forced myself to finish reading just because it felt like there was so much unnecessary detail included and because everything was just told out without really a narrative or story line to help build up my interest. Thank god I'm done with it.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    One feature of every hugely engaging novel is that it’s palpable throughout that the author has invested a great deal of heart and imagination into the narrative. This is far from always the case. There’s sometimes a sense an author is fulfilling a contractual obligation or is never quite inspired by his/her characters or story. This is one of those novels where it’s obvious the author has thrown himself heart and soul into his material and achieved an imaginative identification with its hero so One feature of every hugely engaging novel is that it’s palpable throughout that the author has invested a great deal of heart and imagination into the narrative. This is far from always the case. There’s sometimes a sense an author is fulfilling a contractual obligation or is never quite inspired by his/her characters or story. This is one of those novels where it’s obvious the author has thrown himself heart and soul into his material and achieved an imaginative identification with its hero so intense that he is able to write as if he experienced everything first hand. The visual detail throughout was especially mesmerising. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the fictionalised true story of a young Italian boy’s experiences during WW2. Pino Lella never spoke about his wartime exploits until he was an old man. There was a reason for this. Despite his heroics he has carried with him a harrowing haunting secret, a secret he believes to be shameful. We won’t find out what this secret is until the latter part of the novel. Pino performs two wartime roles – firstly he becomes the guide of an underground escape route for Jewish families fleeing to Switzerland. Later he becomes the driver of one of the most powerful Nazi generals in Italy. In this role he wears a German uniform and the swastika armband, much to the disgust of many of his family, friends and countrymen. However, unknown to everyone, even his brother, he is working as a spy. At one point there’s the suspicion this book is too long. The war in Milan is over and yet there are still over a hundred pages to go. But the huge surprise now is the tension is ratcheted up even further. The final hundred pages are the most intense of the novel, quite a feat considering how exciting the narrative has been throughout. One problem with fictionalising real life is it doesn’t always offer the resolutions that are a vital part of the form of the novel. We need to feel a story has sense, that all the loose threads are eventually embroidered into the tapestry. I was worrying about this towards the end. I was especially thinking of a minor and yet oddly significant character who appeared early in the narrative but then vanished. I found I wanted to know what happened to him. Then, lo and behold, he reappears. This is another extraordinary facet of Pino’s life – it often assumes the tidy order of a novel. This is most astonishingly true when he discovers the maid of his general’s mistress is the older woman he once on an impulse asked for a date on the streets of Milan. Anna, the woman, becomes the love of his love. It’s like there’s no such thing as a random encounter in Pino’s life. All the dots are joined. This is further emphasised in the brief account of Pino’s post-war life – one day he meets an old friend who persuades him to cancel the flight he’s booked on so they can catch up – the flight he cancels is the infamous Lockerbie flight that crashes in Scotland. He also tries to dissuade James Dean from buying the Porsche that killed him when he’s working as a car salesman in California! His instinct is Dean won’t be able to handle the power of the car. I will say there is one resolution we don’t get, which is the mystery of the German officer he works for. The author endeavours to clear him up at the end of the novel but the vital mystery of him eludes him. Anyway, this was a fabulous read. A stunning feat of research and imaginative identification and gripping storytelling.
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fascinating book about WWII in Italy. I’ve read so much about Northern Europe during the war, but this is the first book about what took place in Italy. It follows the story of a real life teenager, beginning in 1943 when he guides Jews over the mountain pass to Switzerland and through the events that have him end up as a spy for the Allies. The story is well told and engaging. The characters seem real. Too often, historical characters come across as wooden or two dimensional, as if th This is a fascinating book about WWII in Italy. I’ve read so much about Northern Europe during the war, but this is the first book about what took place in Italy. It follows the story of a real life teenager, beginning in 1943 when he guides Jews over the mountain pass to Switzerland and through the events that have him end up as a spy for the Allies. The story is well told and engaging. The characters seem real. Too often, historical characters come across as wooden or two dimensional, as if the author is afraid to give them feelings or characteristics that would paint them as less than heroic. Here, you get the full gamut of feelings, including fear, confusion and hate. Last week included All Saint’s Day and Father Re would certainly be included among them. It’s heartwarming to learn about those whose faith is so strong that fear takes a backseat. Sullivan also excels in painting General Leyers. When he asks Pino if he hates him, Pino is afraid to answer truthfully. But Leyers says “yes, you do...it would be surprising if you didn’t hate me for what I’ve had to do today. A part of me hates myself...So here in Italy, and in your eyes, I’m a criminal. Back home, I’ll be an unsung hero. Good. Evil. It’s all a matter of perspective, is it not?”Lots of action here, especially as the war is ending. I’ve read there’s a movie of this in the works and you can see why it was picked up. Some of the scenes are amazing, more so for knowing they really happened. Highly recommend this one!
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  • Terri Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    This was beautifully written. The events really happened but the author had to add conversations that the subject obviously could not remember decades later word for word. I liked seeing the Holocaust from the viewpoint of what happened in Italy. Most books include little if anything about the suffering that both Mussolini and Hitler wreaked on Italians, both Jews and non-Jews. An amazing book I highly recommend.
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    Although I read it quickly, Beneath a Scarlet Sky did not live up to the beauty of its cover. This was recommended to me so that's mostly why I finished it. I should not have read my Goodreads friends' reviews because they were very critical. One reason they were, which I think is the most damning is that although it's purported to be the true life story of Pino Lella, a hero of WW 2, there is little supporting evidence for his story and some of the incidents the author reports seem unlikely to Although I read it quickly, Beneath a Scarlet Sky did not live up to the beauty of its cover. This was recommended to me so that's mostly why I finished it. I should not have read my Goodreads friends' reviews because they were very critical. One reason they were, which I think is the most damning is that although it's purported to be the true life story of Pino Lella, a hero of WW 2, there is little supporting evidence for his story and some of the incidents the author reports seem unlikely to have all happened to the same person, let alone a teenage boy. Pino, the boy, is at seventeen, a skilled, racecar driver, a competent auto mechanic, a translator, (understanding French and German, along with his Italian, well enough to be a secretary for a high ranking German general), he is a mountaineer, safely guiding many refugees over the Alps, a master pianist, able to take up playing brilliantly without practice, and even though a virgin is also a wondrous lover first time out.
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  • LeAnne
    January 1, 1970
    My 14 year old is a military history buff, and I'm pretty sure he will enjoy this simple work of historical fiction set in WWII Italy. Me? Not so much. GOOD STUFF: I learned that groups of Italians - loosely organized by priests and archbishops of the Catholic church - were active in smuggling Jewish refugees over the Alps and into Switzerland to keep them out of the Nazi reach. Getting a feel for the timeline of the German presence in Italy and how it was marked by milestones of Allied advancem My 14 year old is a military history buff, and I'm pretty sure he will enjoy this simple work of historical fiction set in WWII Italy. Me? Not so much. GOOD STUFF: I learned that groups of Italians - loosely organized by priests and archbishops of the Catholic church - were active in smuggling Jewish refugees over the Alps and into Switzerland to keep them out of the Nazi reach. Getting a feel for the timeline of the German presence in Italy and how it was marked by milestones of Allied advancement was also pretty interesting. Jewish and political prisoners were treated horrifically in Italy, something not commonly written about - disturbing, but we need to know these things.SQUIRRELY STUFF: The incessant series of coincidences that put the protagonist - a REAL PERSON named Pino Lella - in probably 40 or more highly unlikely situations sucked nearly all credibility from the story. In the real world of the early 1940s, Mr. Lella was a 17 year old who had been sent with his younger brother up into the mountains to escape the bombings that had begun in Milan. The teenagers stayed at a Catholic boys' school where the priest began to harness the strength and alpine knowledge of 17 year old Pino to fill a role as capable mountain guide for Jews trying to escape persecution.While this section of the book was compelling, the author popped in his first bits of far-fetched "small world" run ins that ultimately doomed my reading experience. I kept envisioning a young Tom Hanks busting out of his leg braces at a full gallop and quoting Mama. "Stupid is as stupid does" - but in Italian - when he was randomly asked to act as translator for Mussolini. I'm not the first person to see the unfortunate Forrest Gump parallel, but because I regarded the book as being either geared for a Young Adult audience - or that population of adults who read maybe just one book a year - I initially let the incessant coincidences slide. Sadly, when young Pino enlists with the Nazis (to avoid being drafted and being sent to the Russian front), he bumped into major players with the gestapo, served water to half starved Jews, was the sole eye witness to a bombing’s perpetrator, and more unlikely Gumpish happenings. He - a teenager who’d only recently learned to drive - expertly chauffered his officer's car to engage in a dog fight with a dive bombing fighter plane, intent on its repeated overhead assassination attempts of the car’s inhabitants. James Bond could not have done a better job. All of these and other farfetched incidents snowballed into one big hunk of questionability for me.There is another WWII era book out called Mischling where the fictional twin sisters, just like Pino and Forrest, end up witnessing every major event to have happened in that particular site over a period of years. Do you remember those long horizontal posters from elementary school science class where every single known dinosaur and shark and invertebrate and fish and tree was illustrated into a single setting? Yes, those are called dioramas, and that is precisely what this book felt like... an unrealistic conglomerate of events.The writing style, vocabulary, and format are fifth grade level - not a bad thing for the general masses of reluctant readers out there - and because of that seemingly "targeted" audience, I further forgave the ridiculousness.UNFORTUNATE STUFF: The flip side to assigning dozens and dozens of unlikely outcomes to one single real world person made me doubt exactly what role Pino Lella played. What a shame that a book that probably promised to honor the sacrifices made by Mr. Lella now have me (a cynic) questioning exactly what he did do in the war. I mean, he DID enlist with the Nazis. Part of me wondered if the outlandish acts of heroism and espionage and coincidence were mere whoppers that some Italian dude concocted years later so nobody would think ill of him for signing up with the Axes forced. I'm NOT accusing - but the way this story was written sure did have me wondering - and that stink is on the author, not Mr. Lella.The names and roles and timeframes for the German officers, priests, and other real people are (I've read) pretty badly botched too, but it is my understanding that the publisher originally claimed that this "Based on Actual Events" book was 90% perfectly accurate. As armchair historians started digging up background info - because hey! it IS a compelling story! - the controversy of how much exaggeration and creative license and blarney was employed grew.Some of this is familiar turf for avid readers. A Million Little Pieces was a beautifully written "memoir" by James Frey that turned out to be more invention than biography. Poor Dave Eggers got hoodwinked by the wolf in sheep's clothing that was the man in Zeitoun. In those instances, however, it was the author Frey intentionally deceiving us and then Zeitoun deceiving author Eggers. Here, I've no idea what to believe or disbelieve, and it is Pino Lella who gets questioned because of this writer Sullivan.In sum, had Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox showed up (speaking Italian), I would not have been surprised. Great story. Poor writing.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. Beneath a Scarlet Sky gets high marks for telling an interesting story about Italy at the end of WWII. It gets middling marks from me for the delivery. Author Mark T. Sullivan has written a fictionalized account of Pino Selle's Iife during the last year of WWII. Pino was an 18 year old Italian boy compelled to enlist as a German soldier by his family in occupied Milan -- this is how they thought he could stay safe. He ended up working as a driver for a high ranking Nazi officer statio 3.5 stars. Beneath a Scarlet Sky gets high marks for telling an interesting story about Italy at the end of WWII. It gets middling marks from me for the delivery. Author Mark T. Sullivan has written a fictionalized account of Pino Selle's Iife during the last year of WWII. Pino was an 18 year old Italian boy compelled to enlist as a German soldier by his family in occupied Milan -- this is how they thought he could stay safe. He ended up working as a driver for a high ranking Nazi officer stationed in Milan -- and also working as a spy for the Italian resistance. Sullivan had the benefit of first hand interviews with 89 year old Pino. As I say, it's a fascinating story. But the delivery could have been better. The writing is very simple and straightforward, which is not necessarily a flaw but may be off putting to some readers. To me, the book did suffer from being longer than necessary. I also felt that Sullivan paints Pino as unrealistically heroic -- he comes across as larger than life and as having emotions that are much simpler than he likely experienced at the time. Whether you are bothered by the weaknesses in the delivery will likely depend on what you are looking for. Great story but simplistic delivery. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Elisabeth
    January 1, 1970
    The story of Pino Lella is amazing. The writing of Mark Sullivan is dreadful. It reads like it was written by a sixth grader, full of cliches and bad metaphors. I brought this book on vacation and was so excited to read it based on the description on the back cover. What a disappointment.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    3 neutral stars The book synopsis sums up the first 35% of the novel really well. Therefore, I am not going to summarize the plot here. I didn't hate Beneath a Scarlet Sky, but I didn't really love this book either. I did love the cover, the title, and that this was a WWII era book situated in Italy. Most of the books I read are heavy on the France/Poland narrative and I appreciated the different angle. I will say that it was refreshing to have a male protagonist be shown in a very different li 3 neutral stars The book synopsis sums up the first 35% of the novel really well. Therefore, I am not going to summarize the plot here. I didn't hate Beneath a Scarlet Sky, but I didn't really love this book either. I did love the cover, the title, and that this was a WWII era book situated in Italy. Most of the books I read are heavy on the France/Poland narrative and I appreciated the different angle. I will say that it was refreshing to have a male protagonist be shown in a very different light. I have read a few reviews that speculate that Mark T. Sullivan was showcasing the young Pino as somewhat of a superhero.On the contrary, I was stunned by how incredibly naive Pino was. About rule under Mussolini, the rounding up of the Jewish people, and the oversimplification of the Catholic Church not wanting to take a stand against Adolf Hitler. But the biggest problem I had and where Sullivan really lost me was Pino's involvement as a spy. That is where I begin to question the validity of the story that was being retold on the pages. Maybe I am just not as trusting,but there is something whispering in my ear to be cautious about this tale. I know, I know, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is rumoured to be a major film starring Tom Holland and the interviews I read from many online websites, including the UK times. The times claim it the "forgotten true story of a real hero who saved Jewish people " and I am sure many people will flock to the cinema and be bowled over by a man who fought against the Nazi occupiers, but I just am not won over by this book. I feel it is in the same category as "All the Light We Cannot See which also received glowing reviews, but was another "ok, I am still the same person after reading this book." Am I becoming more infused with cynicism as I get older? All in all, it didn't work for me, but it just might for someone else.
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  • Jonathan Isakoff
    January 1, 1970
    This book brought me to tearsThis is far and away one of the best books ever on Kindle First. It's a riveting story of love and righteousness. I won't give away more than that. If you want to know the perspective of an Italian during World War II, this is worth the read.
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  • Candace
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come.
  • The Just-About-Cocky Ms M
    January 1, 1970
    So many five-star reviews, so much gushing over this book! I love reading about WWII in Europe, so I snapped this up in a nanosecond. What could go wrong?A hell of a lot.I should remember that a tsunami of five-star reviews, mitigated by some sizable waves of four-star pronouncements, by people I don't know and whose opinions I have no reason to trust usually equals disaster.And I was right.First I must figuratively scratch my head over the editorial laurels laid at the author's feet: all those So many five-star reviews, so much gushing over this book! I love reading about WWII in Europe, so I snapped this up in a nanosecond. What could go wrong?A hell of a lot.I should remember that a tsunami of five-star reviews, mitigated by some sizable waves of four-star pronouncements, by people I don't know and whose opinions I have no reason to trust usually equals disaster.And I was right.First I must figuratively scratch my head over the editorial laurels laid at the author's feet: all those degrees, all those eighteen other novels, collaborating with James Patterson, and so forth and so on. If these are indeed facts, then why is the writing in this novel on the level of a 10th grader's secret diary, with all the breadth and scope of a sophomore's vocabulary and passion for simple declarative sentences? I can honestly say that after 25 years of reading and grading essays written by my junior college history students, any one of them, even the most determined C student, could write rings around this plodding, repetitive, and ultimately boring mess.And there is the whole Forrest Gump overlay: the Amazing, Wonderful, SuperHero Pino Lella pops up in one selfie after--yawn!--another with every conceivable hero, actress, tycoon, spy, villain, Nazi, partisan, actor, hooker, who may or may not have played a role in this wildly vacillating and ultimately unbelievable melodrama. The source of this inane hyperbole may be the faulty--or eminently cunning--memory of an 89-year-old who has outlived everyone who could dispute his claims so he can, at last, say whatever he chooses. That such an allegedly acclaimed writer swallows this fairy tale quite whole and spews it out in such stultifying prose is nothing short of amusing, and not in a good way. If you decide to slog your way through this Hot Mess, ask yourself every five pages or so if a 17-year-old boy could really ___________ [fill in the blank with whatever the author is shoveling up at the moment].I found a far more realistic, rewarding, and heart-stopping story of saving Jews in WWII in the children's books, Belle et Sebastien, or the old movie with Gregory Peck, The Scarlet and the Black. The latter is set in and near Rome and the Vatican.Finally, I note, for what it is worth, the fact that with his alleged writing prowess and publishing connections this writer managed to have this book put out as a freebie on Amazon by Lake Union Publishing, an Amazon operation. Hardly one of the Big Five, now, is it? And I can see why...
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this suspenseful World War II story set in Italy under Nazi occupation. I love WWII fiction and don't believe I have ever read a book from the Italian perspective. The author makes it clear in the preface that this is not a biography or historical novel, but a work of fiction based on the life of Pino Lella. With that firmly in my mind, I didn't really mind Sullivan's embellishments to Lella's story, although it did seem as though Lella was personally present at every single significan I enjoyed this suspenseful World War II story set in Italy under Nazi occupation. I love WWII fiction and don't believe I have ever read a book from the Italian perspective. The author makes it clear in the preface that this is not a biography or historical novel, but a work of fiction based on the life of Pino Lella. With that firmly in my mind, I didn't really mind Sullivan's embellishments to Lella's story, although it did seem as though Lella was personally present at every single significant historical event in Italy between 1943 and 1945. Busy guy!My favorite part of the novel was the beginning, when Pino was in the Alps with Father Re. I thought Sullivan did a great job with the beautiful Alpine setting and creating tension as Pino helped Italian Jews escape into Switzerland. That alone would have been a great story. My least favorite part was the love story between Pino and Anna. I don't know why, but it felt more like a teenager's fantasy than a real love affair.One other thing that I thought was odd - this novel feels very much like young adult fiction. The writing was quite juvenile, as though it was written to that audience. I don't know if Sullivan did that deliberately to make it sound more like the teen-aged Lella's thoughts or if that's just his writing syle. It didn't work for me - I wish the writing had been less prosaic and more lyrical, or at least geared toward more mature readers.Still, the story is the thing here and it was hard to put the book down. A 3 for the writing and a 4 for the story. If you want a more accurate account of Lella's life, you can always look it up online, which I always do anyway after reading historical fiction. By the way, this is going to be a movie with Tom Holland (the new Spiderman) in the lead role. I think this could be an amazing movie!
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  • Stephanie Anze
    January 1, 1970
    Pino Lella was a typical teenager coming of age in Milan when the Nazis started their rampage. Afraid for their safety, Pino and his brother Mimo were sent by their parents to the countryside to Casa Alpina (a school for boys run by Catholic priests). Pino though can not sit idly and soon is involved in the underground resistance helping Jews get to Switzerland. Almost eighteen years old, Pino is signed up with the German army and unexpectadly finds a job as a driver for General Hans Leyers, Hit Pino Lella was a typical teenager coming of age in Milan when the Nazis started their rampage. Afraid for their safety, Pino and his brother Mimo were sent by their parents to the countryside to Casa Alpina (a school for boys run by Catholic priests). Pino though can not sit idly and soon is involved in the underground resistance helping Jews get to Switzerland. Almost eighteen years old, Pino is signed up with the German army and unexpectadly finds a job as a driver for General Hans Leyers, Hitler's right hand in Italy. Pino is tasked with espying on the general and relaying any intel to the resistance. Despite the risks, Pino accepts and his brave act will remain unknown.Dealing with WWII, Italy and the Nazi regime this is one thoroughly researched historical fiction book. Pino Lella's life takes a dramatic turn when he becomes the driver to General Leyers, Hitler's right hand in Italy. While its an ideal position to spy, its also a very dangerous one. Having helped smuggle Jews to Switzerland, Pino is not new to helping the resistance but he'll have to don a swastika to be of help this time around. Despite his young age, Pino looks at the greater good. A compelling and inspirational narrative, this book was quite appealing to me. When it comes to Italy and WWII, the history is somewhat bare in comparison to that of other countries. While I love the narrative, I did feel the book to be too long and the prose was not always precise. Still, this is a strong work and I would recommend it.Pino Lella remained quiet for sixty years about his war experience. Not even his wifes knew (Pino was married twice). It was upon learning about Pino that author Mark Sullivan traveled to Italy and interviewed him. Mr. Lella felt shame for having worn the infamous Nazi symbol in order to spy not realizing the sheer courage it took to take on such a task. Sullivan spent ten years on this book, travelling to Italy and Germany multiple times to verify information. Most people and events in this book are real but due to lack of paperwork and the pass of time some of the content had to be filled by Sullivan (Sullivan originally wanted this to be a work of nonfiction). Pino led quite an interesting life following the war. He sold luxury cars in Beverly Hills (and was quite adept at driving them too), he became a ski instructor and met James Dean, Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway. His greatest achievement though, is his role as spy in the war. His bravery is admirable and he is a true hero. Thanks to Mr. Sullivan for bringing his story to the forefront. Its reported that the movie rights of the book have been sold with Tom Holland to play the lead. Will be looking forward to it.
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  • Roula
    January 1, 1970
    Στο βιβλιο αυτο συνανταμε σαν κυριο ηρωα τον ιταλο Πινο Λελα, εναν νεαρο που ζει την εποχη του Β' Παγκοσμιου πολεμου.κι ενω η ηλικια του θα επρεπε να χαρακτηριζεται απο ανεμελια και ξεγνοιασια, οι εξελιξεις τον υποχρεωνουν να ωριμασει και να γινει ενας γενναιος ανδρας που θα βοηθησει με πολλους και διαφορους τροπους τη χωρα του σε αυτη την πολυ δυσκολη περιοδο και που θα γινει μερος της ιστοριας της.Προκειται για πραγματικα γεγονοτα που ο ιδιος ο πρωταγωνιστης διηγηθηκε στον συγγραφεα του βιβλιο Στο βιβλιο αυτο συνανταμε σαν κυριο ηρωα τον ιταλο Πινο Λελα, εναν νεαρο που ζει την εποχη του Β' Παγκοσμιου πολεμου.κι ενω η ηλικια του θα επρεπε να χαρακτηριζεται απο ανεμελια και ξεγνοιασια, οι εξελιξεις τον υποχρεωνουν να ωριμασει και να γινει ενας γενναιος ανδρας που θα βοηθησει με πολλους και διαφορους τροπους τη χωρα του σε αυτη την πολυ δυσκολη περιοδο και που θα γινει μερος της ιστοριας της.Προκειται για πραγματικα γεγονοτα που ο ιδιος ο πρωταγωνιστης διηγηθηκε στον συγγραφεα του βιβλιου , πραγμα το οποιο δινει μια ακομη πιο ξεχωριστη νοτα στη διηγηση.το βιβλιο ειναι εξαιρετικα δομημενο και ουσιαστικα διδασκει ιστορια μεσα απο το πρισμα μυθιστορηματος.ενδιαφερον απο την πρωτη εως την τελευταια σελιδα και σε πολλα σημεια με ανατριχιαστικες περιγραφες της φρικαλεοτητας του πολεμου.το τελικο συμπερασμα που μου αφησε ηταν παρομοιο με τον "ανθρωπο που αγαπουσε τα σκυλια". Τελικα σε εναν πολεμο δεν υπαρχουν νικητες παρα μονο χαμενοι και ψυχες που χανονται αδικα ή (ισως ακομη χειροτερα) δε βρισκουν ποτε τη λυτρωση.
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  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    3 I so wished I could have loved it stars5 stars for the bravery that Pino and others showedThis should have been a book I adored. It had all the elements of what I so enjoy in my books, heroes, World War 2, courage, nobility in the face of devastation and yet this novel left me feeling oddly displeased.This is the story of a seventeen year old young man living in Italy during the war. He is sent away because his parents fear for his and his bother's safety. They are sent to a school in the Alps 3 I so wished I could have loved it stars5 stars for the bravery that Pino and others showedThis should have been a book I adored. It had all the elements of what I so enjoy in my books, heroes, World War 2, courage, nobility in the face of devastation and yet this novel left me feeling oddly displeased.This is the story of a seventeen year old young man living in Italy during the war. He is sent away because his parents fear for his and his bother's safety. They are sent to a school in the Alps run by Catholic priests. The boys are eventually asked to embark on missions to help secret Jews away to Switzerland. The job these boys understood was not only dangerous because of the weather, the climbing, and the Nazis, but it also required the boys to be physically and mentally strong and agile. Pino and Mimo gladly accept the task and they guide many Jews to safety. When Pino approaches his eighteenth birthday, his parents call him home from the school fearing the draft, knowing that the Italian army will send him to fight in Russia which was certain death. They have him enlist in the Nazi army and it is through his facility with languages that he becomes a driver for General Leyes, a powerful Nazi.Pino Lella and his brother were true heroes and while Pino went on to be a spy while being the driver of a high ranking Nazi general, Mimo eventually joins the resistance. Of course what Pino is doing must be hidden so many of his friends and even relatives abhor his being a Nazi. He, at many times is the recipient of scorn and hatred. The war continues, Pino finds the girl, Anna, working as a maid for the mistress of General Leyes. He had been attracted to her previously. Anna and Pino connect, fall in love, and become lovers.The tension and the possibility of Pino's capture and the secrets he carries to his aunt and uncle makes for the bulk of the book. We learn of what he has witnessed, the transportation of the Jews to Auschwitz, the murders committed and the brutality of the Nazi overlords, the robbing of the Italian treasury, the robbing of Italian treasures and the taking of lives of the innocent. So why did this book fall flat for me? I have to think that sometimes an author tries too hard to cram every thought, every deed, every moment into a story. For me, that often makes for a read that I find overburdened with wordiness. What Pino and others did was amazing on so many levels. Their courage, their ability to face adversity was awe inspiring. I just wish the author had been able to inspire that awe in me.Thank you to my local library for purchasing this book for all to read.You can find my reviews at my blog https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...
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  • Nikki (Saturday Nite Reader)
    January 1, 1970
    Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark T. Sullivan, was inspired by the real life story of WWII hero, Pino Lella. This book was 10 years in the making for author, Mark T. Sullivan, whom met Pinot by chance and knew he wanted to tell his story. It is a work of fiction, but has been rumored to be about 90% true.First things first, this audiobook is a commitment. It is 17 hours long! About 25% way through I upped the speed to 1.25x and it cut a few hours off, phew. I am terribly bad at paying attention to Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark T. Sullivan, was inspired by the real life story of WWII hero, Pino Lella. This book was 10 years in the making for author, Mark T. Sullivan, whom met Pinot by chance and knew he wanted to tell his story. It is a work of fiction, but has been rumored to be about 90% true.First things first, this audiobook is a commitment. It is 17 hours long! About 25% way through I upped the speed to 1.25x and it cut a few hours off, phew. I am terribly bad at paying attention to audiobooks, but I do find I am most engaged in listening and not being distracted by everything around me (look a squirrel!) when I am taking a long drive. During a long weekend I went to visit friends in CT (about a 2 hour drive) so it was a perfect time to dive into Pino’s story.Pino is an Italian who at the age of 18 is forced to enlist to fight with the Germans on his home turf. Just the previous winter he was helping Jews escape to Switzerland, so you can imagine the pain Pinot is fighting internally to be working for the enemy.I am not one to give too much detailed information in my reviews, as I want the reader/listener to experience much of the granular details on their own. What I will say is that like any story about war, it is depressing. There is only so much one person can experience and it was wild to hear that much of this story was true for Pino. His love for Anna Marta will make you weep. He is witness to such destruction and devastation at a young age and still finds the strength to keep going. After listening to this audiobook all I wanted to do was find Pino and hug him (if you know anything about me, this is huge. I hate hugs, so for me to want to actually give one away…well that’s major).If you are taking a long drive, or can pay attention better than me, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a solid historical fiction audiobook choice. You must commit your time, but it’s one worth experiencing. The writing is beautiful, great character development. There is also an epilogue that provides a snapshot of where many of these characters wound up in real life.The narrator, Will Damron, did an amazing job at tackling the various accents and character emotions. It was not an easy feat, but he made it sound easy.Also, super cool to note: it is soon to be a major motion picture, staring Tom Holland as Pino.To read my interview with Narrator, Will Damron visit: https://saturdaynitereader.com/2018/0...
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  • MarytheBookLover
    January 1, 1970
    My Opinion:This was a brilliantly written, and brutally honest book of one man's life in WW2. He went from being a child to becoming a man, a spy, a friend, and a lover. This tale is so emotional and heart wrenching that you can't help but fall in love with every minute of this book. WOW, just WOW. I can't even imagine going and doing any of these things. This was so well written and the tale told so well and with such emotion, it left me speechless. I don't even know how to explain this book or My Opinion:This was a brilliantly written, and brutally honest book of one man's life in WW2. He went from being a child to becoming a man, a spy, a friend, and a lover. This tale is so emotional and heart wrenching that you can't help but fall in love with every minute of this book. WOW, just WOW. I can't even imagine going and doing any of these things. This was so well written and the tale told so well and with such emotion, it left me speechless. I don't even know how to explain this book or give it the justice it deserves. I don't think I know the right words for it, but I will try my best.This tale is about a boy of 17 years old that was helping jewish people escape the nazis during WW2. He would take them over the Alps and into Switzerland. These are death defining mountains that he took regular people like me and you through to survive. TO SURVIVE!!! He did this for many months and then came his time to enlist with the Nazis or to become a rebel (partisan) against them. With the help of his father and uncle he makes his choice and became a Nazis and then became a spy. His life was always in peril because of this and did not tell many what he was doing. He wasn't allowed to tell many including his brother for fear of anyone being tortured for it. The fighting, the plight of the slaves, the peril of being discovered. This book just emotionally has you hooked. It lacked all the gore, but not the depth of what he saw during his time as a soldier. Amazing tale of about 2 years of being a hero both in helping people escape through the Alps and being a spy in the Nazis army for the resistance. I cried several times during this tale. The fingers of the child, the starvation, the woman's plea, Anna, Carleto and for Pino himself. The firing squad. Oh, god..This book is just so amazing. AMAZING.Just so you know I do not usually read biographies or WW2 books or war books at all. So, for this to have me enthralled and loving it, says something about this book. I feel in love with Pino and his family and Father Re. Wonderful book, brilliantly written and a must read book. Get it, you will not be disappointed!I give this book 5 of 5 stars!
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    Masterful tale of a young man’s courageous struggle to fight for the greater good during the Nazi occupation of Milan during World War II. SUMMARYAlthough a work of fiction this novel is based on a true story with a real hero. At the heart of the story is a normal seventeen-year-old Italian boy named Pino Lella. He is obsessed with music, finding a girl, and falling in love. But then in 1943, the bombs start dropping on Milan and his family home is destroyed. His parents send him to a camp in th Masterful tale of a young man’s courageous struggle to fight for the greater good during the Nazi occupation of Milan during World War II. SUMMARYAlthough a work of fiction this novel is based on a true story with a real hero. At the heart of the story is a normal seventeen-year-old Italian boy named Pino Lella. He is obsessed with music, finding a girl, and falling in love. But then in 1943, the bombs start dropping on Milan and his family home is destroyed. His parents send him to a camp in the mountains to escape the bombardment and the occupation. While in the mountains he guides Jewish refugees across rugged terrain to the Swiss border. When he returns to Milan his parents surprisingly insist that he voluntarily join the German army in order to avoid the draft and having to fight on the front lines. Pino’s role in the army as a driver for a high ranking German general, allows him to witness significant events during the war. Pino uses these opportunities to spy for the partisans until the war ends in 1945. REVIEWThis is an unforgettable, authentic story of courage, love and forgiveness. Mark Sullivan’s amazing writing transports us to Milan in 1943 where he has captured the fear and anguish of the turbulent times. This epic novel is steeped in personal accounts of events, and as a result the details, dialogs and emotions are mesmerizing. Sullivan’s opportunity to interview the seventy-year old Pino Lella allowed Pino’s character in the book to come to life. Beneath A Scarlet Sky is full of ups and downs, trials and triumphs and love and heartbreak. I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates historical fiction. This is one of my very favorite books of 2017.
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  • Rose
    January 1, 1970
    A powerful book, that ai highly recommend. I have read many books on this subject but none from the viewpoint of Italy. An excellent read.
  • Tania
    January 1, 1970
    What I liked most about this novel is the look at WWII in Italy. I've read a few books that has skimmed over it, but Beneath a Scarlet Sky, gave me a much better sense of time and place. Every country has different stories to tell about it's unique experiences. I liked that this was mostly based on a real life person, as I would have thought that there was too much happening if it was fictionalized, but as we know truth is almost always stranger than fiction. I also liked that Pino was portrayed What I liked most about this novel is the look at WWII in Italy. I've read a few books that has skimmed over it, but Beneath a Scarlet Sky, gave me a much better sense of time and place. Every country has different stories to tell about it's unique experiences. I liked that this was mostly based on a real life person, as I would have thought that there was too much happening if it was fictionalized, but as we know truth is almost always stranger than fiction. I also liked that Pino was portrayed as a young boy, his emotions and actions were always in line with his age. The only reasons I did not rate this higher, is that I normally prefer HF that is more literary and slower in pace. I do however think that many, many people will disagree with me and prefer this action adventure style. I am adding this to my son's reading list, and I think this is the perfect book to introduce non-HF to the genre.This is an easy-reading, fast-paced book about how war brings out the best in some people. The Story: When an Allied bomb wrecks his family home, Pino’s parents send him north to Casa Alpina. There he assists Father Re in his dangerous missions of transporting Jews to safety in neutral Switzerland. Near Pino’s eighteenth birthday, he’s recalled to Milan, his father suggesting enlistment in the German Army to avoid being drafted. Pino becomes the chauffeur/translator for General Leyers, Hitler’s left-hand-man in Italy.
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  • Kim Kaso
    January 1, 1970
    This was available on Kindle First, and sounded like a fresh take on WW II for me. Both the subject of the novel, a young man who actually lived through these extraordinary times and experiences, and the author had compelling stories, and it caught my interest. I bought it in book form as there are many people with whom I wish to share this, and found myself reading way too late into the night as I needed to know what happened next. I cared deeply about the characters, and I was engaged by the d This was available on Kindle First, and sounded like a fresh take on WW II for me. Both the subject of the novel, a young man who actually lived through these extraordinary times and experiences, and the author had compelling stories, and it caught my interest. I bought it in book form as there are many people with whom I wish to share this, and found myself reading way too late into the night as I needed to know what happened next. I cared deeply about the characters, and I was engaged by the dangerous and heartbreaking incidents that I read with such attention. Very highly recommended, it is a story everyone should read. People can choose to do the right thing, the scary thing, even in the worst of times.
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  • LeAnne
    January 1, 1970
    This work of historical WWII fiction is about a real Italian teenager who was, for a short time, part of the group that smuggled Jewish refugees over the Alps and across the Swiss border to safety. Sent to a Catholic order up in the mountains to escape bombing at home, Pino comes of age in a short time period and takes great personal risk to help those fleeing the Germans. Anecdotes surrounding refugees hiding in the tree tops and treacherous alpine ascents were fairly gripping, although some of This work of historical WWII fiction is about a real Italian teenager who was, for a short time, part of the group that smuggled Jewish refugees over the Alps and across the Swiss border to safety. Sent to a Catholic order up in the mountains to escape bombing at home, Pino comes of age in a short time period and takes great personal risk to help those fleeing the Germans. Anecdotes surrounding refugees hiding in the tree tops and treacherous alpine ascents were fairly gripping, although some of the stories sounded a bit like "fish tale" whoppers. It is entirely possible that all the events did occur, but the overblown writing style starts to make one wonder. For fiction written for the masses, that was fine. My 14 year old is a history buff, and he will likely enjoy the book.Despite Pino's conviction to help the Jews, the boy legally enlisted with the occupying German forces upon returning home to Milan. His parents pointed out that the only other alternative was to be drafted upon his 18th birthday and be sent to the Russian front. With a 50% casualty rate and his birthday looming, Pino Lella heeded his parents' request and donned the Nazi uniform.From this point on, the author ramped up the level of coincidence in the story to such an extreme point that I had visions of a young Tom Hanks busting out of leg braces, running full tilt and quoting Mama. "Stupid is what stupid does" - but in Italian. Capisce? Through a series of coincidences, young Pino becomes the chauffeur and translator for a German general who calls himself "the left hand of Hitler." Pino is able to spy for the resistance, according to the story, but his attempt to ultimately do the right thing ends up harming someone he holds dear.Written in a way such that all readers can appreciate the story, those looking for a deeper literary experience will possibly be disappointed. It was difficult for me to take the story seriously because it seemed that every single critical event that happened in Milan took place right under Pino's nose. If Mussolini had a meeting with a high ranking German, guess who was randomly pulled in to translate? Bombs, sudden chances for espionage, witnessing slave labor, finding the love of his life again, viewing the execution of an old friend, outmaneuvering a British fighter pilot, etc ...I rather wish I'd kept count of all the extremely unlikely occurrences. My guess is that are probably more than 50 in the whole book.Beyond that, I have read that the named German officials and other characters in the story did not occupy the roles that the author puts forth. Historical time tables make certain depicted events impossible, and more bobbles with reality plague the story. The author and publisher are now taking some heat for potentially leading readers astray with how much fiction went into the novel that was touted at one point as being 90% nonfiction. While integrity in publishing is something to be upheld, what bothered me about the exaggerated creative license is that people may doubt the courage that Pino Lella genuinely put forth during this war. It might label him a Nazi sympathizer - what a horrible thing for an innocent man and family to bear! I do believe that Mr. Lella, still alive and well in his 90s, did great service in the war and did so at great personal risk. I hate that the creative license and melodramatic style of the author made me doubt Pino's story.The embellishments and ridiculously repeating sense of coincidence in this book should not take away anything from the service of Pino Lella. He is not Paul Bunyan or John Henry or Pecos Bill, but a real person. This author, however, left me thinking that Babe the Blue Ox would show up at any time. Good story. Poor writing.
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  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    January 1, 1970
    The vocabulary and sentence structure seem geared toward about fifth grade. As the boys moved on, Mimo limped along while rubbing his right hip and complaining. But Pino was barely listening. A tawny-blond woman with slate-blue eyes was coming down the sidewalk right at them. He guessed her to be in her early twenties. She was beautifully put together, with a gentle nose, high cheekbones, and lips that curled naturally into an easy smile. Svelte and of medium height, she wore a yellow summer dre The vocabulary and sentence structure seem geared toward about fifth grade. As the boys moved on, Mimo limped along while rubbing his right hip and complaining. But Pino was barely listening. A tawny-blond woman with slate-blue eyes was coming down the sidewalk right at them. He guessed her to be in her early twenties. She was beautifully put together, with a gentle nose, high cheekbones, and lips that curled naturally into an easy smile. Svelte and of medium height, she wore a yellow summer dress and carried a canvas shopping bag. She turned off the sidewalk and entered a bakery just ahead.This book might be very good for those willing to look beyond prose, but it is not for me. I should have known when I saw that James Patterson was praising it, and steered clear. DNF'd at about 35 pages.
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  • Ron
    January 1, 1970
    Lives are lost during wars. We know this. Others are forever changed because of them, as family and friends do not return home, for many the reason is never known. Love can also begin, but then sometimes it's stolen before it has the chance to fully blossom. And there are also the stories of unaccountable bravery. Men and women who give or try, even if only a little, to fight oppression and wrong. Very often, much more than a little was given. And with those, there are stories that are forgotten Lives are lost during wars. We know this. Others are forever changed because of them, as family and friends do not return home, for many the reason is never known. Love can also begin, but then sometimes it's stolen before it has the chance to fully blossom. And there are also the stories of unaccountable bravery. Men and women who give or try, even if only a little, to fight oppression and wrong. Very often, much more than a little was given. And with those, there are stories that are forgotten. Maybe it's due to time passing, or maybe because those who experience war prefer silence to remembering the pain. All I mentioned occurred in Pino Lella's life during World War II, in a span of a mere 2 years. Unbelievably, he was only 17. Circumstance certainly played a role in where Pino often found himself, but isn't it what we do with the circumstance given us? From what I read, he would have been the first to say, “I'm no hero”, because there were moments he truly regretted. A moment in which he called himself a coward. But no Pino, you were never that.I'm caught between completely loving this true story (yes, it's based on a real life. Amazing really – I think some may argue against simply because of that word), and not wholly loving the writing. It's not hard to love a person like Pino, or feel deeply for what he and his family went through in the midst of war. The story is great, the writing is good for certain, but not always expressive. Straightforward prose, not beautiful. Bottom line though, I will not forget my time in it, nor this man's life.
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  • Maine Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    It's mind boggling how bad this book is. The author wants to have it both ways, saying in one place that it's fiction, then saying it "hews closely" to fact and, in the Afterward, writing as if it was all true. You can't have it both ways. Actually, though, either way it has the same problems, in that the writing is juvenile and the story made me laugh out loud numerous times with how absurd it is. I had to start taking notes just to keep track of the astonishing coincidences and cartoonish tale It's mind boggling how bad this book is. The author wants to have it both ways, saying in one place that it's fiction, then saying it "hews closely" to fact and, in the Afterward, writing as if it was all true. You can't have it both ways. Actually, though, either way it has the same problems, in that the writing is juvenile and the story made me laugh out loud numerous times with how absurd it is. I had to start taking notes just to keep track of the astonishing coincidences and cartoonish tales of Pino's heroism. I'm going to have to mark all the rest of this review in spoiler tags so that I can convey how looney tunes this book is. Also, it's hard to call this a review. I'm just pouring out my thoughts as fast as I can so that I can move on to a real book.(view spoiler)[I counted five different times when Pino was right in the midst of explosions and gunfire, but he escaped virtually unscathed even though others were killed and maimed. In one of the funniest of those occasions, Allied planes strafe the car he's driving General Leyers in, riddling the entire car with bullets; body, engine block, tires, you name it. But our hero manages to repair the car enough to get them back to Milan.Pino falls instantly in love with a woman, Anna, whom he sees on the street. He gets only her first name. Fourteen months later, after he's been hired as General Leyers's driver/translator, he finds that Anna is Leyers's mistress's maid. What are the odds? (That's sarcasm, kids.) Although Pino and Anna fall in love and plan to marry, he never learns her last name.Pino is constantly stumbling upon scenes just as they erupt into horrific violence. He sees a family friend killed in a bomb attack, he witnesses a good friend murdered by Nazis in retaliation for partisan attacks, his cousin is executed on the streets right in front of him, and after the Nazis are defeated in Italy he sees Anna shot by partisans as a collaborator.Pino's introduction to heroism is when he's 17 and his parents send him off to Casa Alpina, run by a religious order for boys to study and learn hiking and other mountain skills. Father Re and Father Barbereschi recruit him to guide refugees, mostly Jews fleeing likely transport to death camps, over the mountain to safety in Switzerland. Pino does this many times, always managing to get people to keep going when fear or exhaustion makes them want to give up. But if that's not heroic enough for you, Sullivan lays it on really thick. There's the time Pino and refugees are buried in a hut by an avalanche and before they can die of oxygen deprivation Pino uses his axe and skis to get them out. One of the refugees is a pregnant woman who is spotting, so our hero has her climb up on his back and he skis her to Switzerland. This so reminded me of the WW2 anti-Nazi movie The Mortal Storm, with Jimmy Stewart escaping the Nazis on skis, carrying his girlfriend in his arms when she is shot. Hmm, do you think Pino might have seen that movie?Early in the book (after all the amazing alpine rescue scenes, though), Pino's parents arrange for him to work for the German Operation Todt, so that he won't be drafted to go to the Russian Front. This all leads to his being recruited as a spy for the resistance and, later, an operative of the US's OSS intelligence service. Uh huh.Naturally, his hiring as Leyers's driver/translator is pure happenstance. He sees the car on the street having mechanical problems and fixes it while the General is in a shop. The General hires him on the spot. On his first full day with Leyers, of course he meets Mussolini. That's just one of several meetings with Mussolini, including one of the later ones in which Mussolini's wife calls and tells him that she is getting threatening messages from partisans, who prophetically say that they are going to kill Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci.I almost forgot one of the other unbelievable scenes. Pino accompanies Leyers to visit a plant manager and Leyers and the plant manager get into an argument because the manager is dubious that the Germans will pay up for his goods, this being late in the war. So Leyers gets on the phone and calls Hitler, hands over the receiver to the plant manager, and Hitler rips him a new one. Oh, yeah, sure, that would happen.Though it's supposed to be a deep, dark secret, Sullivan writes that Pino reveals to a few people that he's a spy. That includes his parents and Anna. His brother Mimo is active in the partisans and physically attacks Pino for being a Nazi. And yet Pino doesn't tell Mimo about his being a spy.According to Sullivan, Pino never wanted to talk about his wartime exploits. That is, until the 1990s. I'm sure it's pure coincidence that just about everybody he knew in wartime was dead by then.In the Afterword, Sullivan writes that the two priests who recruited Pino to join their network rescuing Jews were recognized as Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem. I'm reading elsewhere here on Goodreads that that's untrue.Sullivan's description in the Afterword of Pino's postwar life sounds nearly as over the top as his wartime exploits. Pino goes to the US as a translator for the Italian ski team. He meets Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper. Cooper says he should be an actor, go to LA and have a screen test. Pino does go to LA, but doesn't get into the movie business. Instead, he sells sports cars. More name dropping by Sullivan, including another amazing bit of prophecy in which Pino tells James Dean he shouldn't buy a Porsche because it's too much for him. Of course, Dean later does buy a Porsche and is killed when he crashes it.In later years, one feature of Pino's charmed life is that he was supposed to be on Pan Am flight 103, but changed his plans, thus avoiding being killed in the Lockerbie bombing. Oy.I've read a lot of WW2 history, and one thing you see a lot is that after the war ended, a whole lot of people suddenly claimed to have been in the resistance. The way this book is written, you have to wonder if this is one of those cases. And although Sullivan says he spent 10 years researching and verified many facts, he never explains what he verified. (hide spoiler)]It feels weird to me to see so many adoring reviews of this book, especially to see that those reviewers seems to take it all as the gospel truth. I don't know what to make of it.
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  • Skip
    January 1, 1970
    Truly remarkable, the divergence of opinions on this book on Goodreads. It seems that little has been written about Mussolini's fascist Italy during WWII. Mark Sullivan's novel is based on the true story of teenager Pino Lella's experiences in war-torn Milan, and Sullivan clearly did extensive research, but was surprised that Mussolini's heinous fascist crimes were completely ignored: Mussolini was wrongly portrayed as a victim. On the other hand, he made you feel you were actually in Milan and Truly remarkable, the divergence of opinions on this book on Goodreads. It seems that little has been written about Mussolini's fascist Italy during WWII. Mark Sullivan's novel is based on the true story of teenager Pino Lella's experiences in war-torn Milan, and Sullivan clearly did extensive research, but was surprised that Mussolini's heinous fascist crimes were completely ignored: Mussolini was wrongly portrayed as a victim. On the other hand, he made you feel you were actually in Milan and the Italian Alps with his descriptive writing.Pino Lella had two major roles during the war: first, a Catholic priest convinced him to guide Jews through the mountains into neighboring Switzerland; and second, his rudimentary auto mechanic knowledge landed him a plum job driving a senior Nazi general, making him an ideal spy. There is even a love story, reminiscent of Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful. I enjoyed the novel, and particularly, Sullivan's foreword. 4+ stars.
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  • Juli
    January 1, 1970
    Pino Lella is a typical Italian teenager...he enjoys his friends, girls, music....what all young people enjoy. Then Milan is bombed by the Allies, and World War II tears his world apart. Pino leaves Milan and joins a group that helps guide Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. As he nears his 18th birthday, his parents push him to join the German Army to prevent his being sent to the Russian front with the Italian forces. Pino joins the German army, but he isn't a Nazi.....he is acting as Pino Lella is a typical Italian teenager...he enjoys his friends, girls, music....what all young people enjoy. Then Milan is bombed by the Allies, and World War II tears his world apart. Pino leaves Milan and joins a group that helps guide Jews over the Alps to safety in Switzerland. As he nears his 18th birthday, his parents push him to join the German Army to prevent his being sent to the Russian front with the Italian forces. Pino joins the German army, but he isn't a Nazi.....he is acting as a spy, passing information on to the Allies. As he drives a German general all over Italy, he is gathering intel to help the Allies win the war. He sees so many atrocities -- Jews being worked to death, cattle cars filled with people being sent to concentration camps, people shot in the streets..... Pino Lella was a forgotten hero of WWII and his remarkable story is finally being told. I enjoyed this book. I listened to the audiobook version. The descriptions of what Pino Lella saw and experienced during the war in Italy was very emotional for me. I can't even imagine experiencing so much violence, death and fear. My father fought in the war and then was stationed in Germany following Germany's surrender. He would rarely talk about it, but said the aftermath of the fighting was so horrifying that he didn't want me to know what it was like. Towards the end of the book, Pino sees fascists and collaborators being executed in the streets following the German surrender. Those scenes immediately brought my dad's words about the horrific nature of war back into my mind. He said he hoped that I never had to experience anything remotely like it. My father wasn't even 20 years old and had to see people being shot in the streets, civilians so worn down by war and violence that they killed themselves by jumping in front of trains, and children starving to death because there wasn't enough food. I can't even imagine it.I loved most of the story. But, at times, the book rambled on a bit too long and got more than a little melodramatic, especially regarding Pino's girlfriend. When I got to the end of the story, it made more sense why Anna was mentioned all the time and the effect she had on his entire life. But.....for most of the book I was rolling my eyes when he went on and on about her beauty, their love, etc. I suppose it really is what an 18 year old in love for the first time would say and do...... but, for me, it really slowed down the plot development in regards to Pino's spying and the war a bit too much. And the long descriptions of how she looked, smelled, talked......it got old by the end of the story. I was also just a little bit incredulous that Pino could actually have done all of the things credited to him -- meeting Mussolini and witnessing his death, a post-war warning to James Dean not to buy the car that ultimately caused his death, miraculously escaping so many deadly situations, etc. He just seems a little bit overdone....too "larger than life.'' I'm not saying that I don't believe Sullivan's research....I just think things might be just a bit exaggerated in places. In my opinion, at times the writing style comes off as a bit juvenile.....melodramatic, over-simplified and exaggerated...and that has an effect on the impact of the story. But, I have to remind myself that the story is about an 18-year old boy who is thrown into an experience of violence and terror that those of us who weren't there (or who have never experienced war destroying our country) cannot possibly really understand. I have the suspicion that some facts are exaggerated.....but overall the story is so powerful that I'm not sure I really care if some of the events and deeds by Pino Lella didn't happen exactly as reported. That he was willing to spy at all.....or help Jews across the mountains....or resist the Nazis in any way when it meant death to be caught makes me have a deep respect for the man. Many normal citizens were too afraid to do anything.....they pretended not to notice the murder of millions of Jews because they were afraid for their own lives. Would I have had the guts to resist and face almost certain death for it??? I'm not sure I would. None of us can really be sure unless we are faced with those same life-and-death situations. If some of the details are exaggerated, then so be it. Pino Lella's story should be told. Even if a few details are over-blown, that doesn't negate the fact he risked his life on a daily basis to do what was right. That is a lot of courage for an 18-year old to possess and quite a scarring way to grow up. All in all, despite a few little things here and there, I enjoyed this book. I had never really read anything about the situation in Italy and what happened there once Germany surrendered. The audiobook is narrated by Will Damron. He read at a nice, even pace. I have hearing loss but was still able to easily hear and understand everything. The audiobook version is just under 18 hours long. It kept my attention except in a few spots where it focused on his love life a bit too long. The reason didn't become apparent until later in the story. I can see why those chapters are included now, but I still feel that all that detail slowed down the story. Some could have been edited out to shorten the book, while still preserving the idea that she was very important to him.
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