Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

TitleBeneath a Scarlet Sky
AuthorMark Sullivan
TypeHistorical Fiction
Finished ReadingMarch 15, 2022

After finishing “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn I quite unintentionally picked up another book about individuals in World War II who worked under cover. Like the hackneyed saying has it; if you made it up no one would believe it. Nevertheless this story “is not a work of narrative nonfiction, but a novel of biographical and historical fiction that hews closely to what happened to Pino Lella between June 1943 and May 1945.” [p 4] 

When Pino is just 17 the Americans begin the assault on Italy and Pino is sent by his parents to a Catholic monastery high in the Alps for his safety. But he ends up helping Jews over a torturous escape route over the mountains to Switzerland. When he turns 18 he he is called back to his home town and enlists in the Italian army where he becomes a driver for Hitler’s top officer in Italy – General Leyers – who is responsible for managing logistics and supplies for the German war effort. Pino ends up being a spy for the underground resistance and reports on everything he sees. Unfortunately, Pino’s work is very secret and his brother and friends hate him for suspected colluding with the enemy. 

This novel provides a gritty portrayal of life in occupied territory during war and the toll it takes on people. Leyers loots Italy to send supplies to the Eastern Front; Pino witnesses trains taking Jews to the work camp Äuschwitz”.  Pino wonders

“Why me? Why must I see these things? Pino felt as if he and Italy had been condemned to suffer cruelties that seemed endless. What new brutality was coming his way? Who would be the next to die? And how horribly?”

Page 339

At the end Pino has a last encounter with General Leyers – but I don’t want to provide any spoilers.

This is a very good historical novel and I was struck the commonality with “The Rose Code” where people who are working behind the scenes for the right side are judged by friends and acquaintances for slacking or colluding. 

I picked this book because one of the reviews compared it to “All the Light We Cannot See” (which I gave 5 stars). This novel is nothing like Anthony Doerr’s classic and it is a disservice to both books to make that comparison. The book has 4+ stars on Amazon with over 60,000 ratings

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