Beneath a Scarlet Sky
By: Mark T. Sullivan
Guest Reviewer Rating: FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS
Best For: 16 and up
This WWII Hero Will Change You
Guest review by Catina Haverlock
How did we not know of this TRUE WWII story? How did it remain untold for SO long?
Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the inspiring true tale of seventeen-year-old Pino Lella, who lives a pretty sheltered life in Milan, Italy, even under the fascist regime of Mussolini. His family is wealthy, he has good friends, lots of nearby and colorful relatives and spends his days focused on food, music and girls. When Hitler’s Nazi regime start wreaking havoc in Italy, Pino is sent by his family to a Catholic boys’ school high in the Alps, apparently for his own safety. But there, Father Re has big plans for him, and Pino risks his life frequently as he becomes a critical player in the Italian Underground Railroad, escorting Jewish individuals and families across treacherous territory through the Alps and into the safety of Switzerland. After nearly a year and approaching his 18th birthday, Pino finds himself back in Milan, forced to enlist with the Nazi’s by his father and to avoid an almost certain death if he is drafted by Italy. Serendipity strikes and Pino is chosen as the personal driver to Hitler’s most powerful Nazi General in Italy. And Pino shifts from Underground Railroad escort to a spy for the Italians.
This story is extraordinary in every way. Mark Sullivan spent 10 years interviewing Pino and others alive during WWII Italy, digging through archives and visiting every setting in the book. Ten years! And it shows in the authenticity of his writing. The details were beautiful, the characters very much alive and the pacing perfect. I listened to this book on Audible and it was very well done.
Before this book, I thought I was pretty good at reading and digesting war books. I’ve read Unbroken, The Book Thief, Man’s Search for Meaning and many, many more.
But something about the tragedies of this war story broke me. This story actually woke me in the middle of the night for several nights after I finished reading it. Perhaps this speaks to Sullivan’s story telling. Perhaps it speaks to the gruesome events and impossible heart break of war. Maybe it was because I grew to love Pino Lella and he was not just a fictional character derived from an author’s mind, but a real boy who became a man overnight. Pino inspired me. Pino broke me. And Pino changed me. I bet he’ll change you too.
Some steamy love scenes between Pino and his love, Ana, lots of very vivid descriptions of the tragedies of war (naked people being hung upside down, bashed in skulls, etc.)
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