If nothing else, I give full marks to the marketing folk who have successfully convinced so many people to go out and buy this novel, and in turn make it an Amazon bestseller. Does it deserve those mega sales? Does it warrant all the praise it''s received? - I think not, by...See more
If nothing else, I give full marks to the marketing folk who have successfully convinced so many people to go out and buy this novel, and in turn make it an Amazon bestseller. Does it deserve those mega sales? Does it warrant all the praise it''s received? - I think not, by a long chalk. The reason I invested in a copy of this book was because it was placed up there on a pedestal, besides the likes of one of my favourite novel''s ''All The Light We Cannot See'' by Anthony Doerr. Beneath a Scarlet Sky pales into insignificance compared with the magical prose that consistently weaves it''s way through Mr Doerr''s mesmerising work of fiction. It''s also worth noting that the only endorsement on the cover of this book comes from James Patterson, who just happens to be one of Mark Sullivan''s best buddies, having co-written five novels together. One of the issues I had with this book is the way it''s been publicised as the true story of a forgotten Italian hero. This is clearly a novel as printed on the front cover, it doesn''t claim to be a biography. The inner cover even states: ‘Though based on a true story and real characters, this is a work of fiction and of the author''s imagination.’ That was an hurdle for me, because I just couldn''t decide which parts were true, which parts were half-true, and which parts were totally fabricated to embellish the story - so, in turn, I couldn''t make up my mind whether this young man was really the incredible, larger-than-life hero he was made out to be by the author. There''s no doubt that the central character in this tale, Pino Lella actually existed, and evidence indeed suggests that he did play a part in helping Jews to escape from Italy, by leading them on a treacherous journey over the Alps to the safety of Switzerland. And, of course, he should be honoured and admired for voluntarily carrying out such a brave feat. However, I found it difficult to believe in his other ventures, and the heroic acts that followed. We are led to believe that at the age of 18 his mother and father convince him to enlist in the local OT section of the German army - so that he can stay in Italy, and not be later conscripted and sent to the Russian front. When in uniform, he wears a Swastika armband. In no time at all he becomes the personal driver to General Hans Leyers, who was the most senior and most powerful Nazi in Italy during the last two years of WW2. You would think that by holding such power, this general would have on his staff an interpreter, a German officer who could speak fluent Italian. But no, he asks Pino to interpret for him, even though Pino doesn''t know much German. Leyers has to therefore speak to Pino in a language they both understand - French! By the way, Pino is based in his own town, but it doesn''t seem to bother the General that Private first class Lella will have at least some allegiance to his own local family and friends. Pino accompanies the general to meetings with influential Italian manufacturing leaders, and top Nazi officials - so he gets to eavesdrop on talks about construction sites for German munitions factories etc. Hence his opportunity for becoming a spy. Pino even gets to meet Mussolini on at least a couple of occasions. It also appears that Pino was conveniently present to witness every major event, tragedy or horror that was inflicted on the people of Milan during his time as a German soldier. What I mustn''t forget to mention, is the standard of the writing - I thought it was mediocre at best. For me, many of the sections fell flat, other areas of the narrative were drawn out. In addition, it lacked the tension I was expecting from a story concerning an important period in history which had devastating effects on Italy and it''s people. In the book''s favour, I did learn something about Italy''s participation in WW2, and gleaned facts that were previously unknown to me. I was also fascinated by the ''Aftermath'' which appears after the story has come to an end. This section essentially sums up what happened to some of the key characters after the war, and certainly convinced me that as he got older, Pino Lella did indeed become a charismatic figure. I realise I''m in a small minority when it comes to how I''ve assessed this novel. All I can add is that I can only give my truthful appraisal of a book, and I always endeavour to be honest during that process.