Friday, October 19, 2018

Review: Beneath a Scarlet Sky

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to books about World War II. From Gordon Prange's At Dawn We Slept, which I read in college, to Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, which I listened to last year, I have consumed more than thirty works on the war.

So I did not need much motivation this month to add another title to that list. I needed even less to listen to a celebrated novel that covers several aspects of the war from an unlikely perspective.

In Beneath a Scarlet Sky, author Mark Sullivan has created an all-encompassing work that is reminiscent of All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale. Based on a true story of a forgotten hero, it is a gripping novel that raises the bar in its genre.

Set mostly in northern Italy, the book details the trials and triumphs of Pino Lella, who, as a teenager from 1943 to 1945, fought the occupying Germans -- first as a mountaineer guiding Jews over the Alps to Switzerland, then as a spy posing as the driver for a Nazi general, and finally as a reluctant Italian partisan.

Despite a violent political environment that pits Italians against each other, Pino maintains his ties with family and friends and finds love with the beautiful Anna, a woman six years his senior.

Though the novel is large at 524 pages, it never feels large. In Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Sullivan tells a riveting tale that holds the reader's attention from the start. Will Damron, narrator of the nearly 18-hour audiobook, does justice to the author's epic work.

I would recommend the book to anyone who loves World War II history, suspense, and stories of courage. Rating: 5/5.