Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
I borrowed this book from a coworker, just before leaving for vacation. I enjoy a good piece of historical fiction, and this one was close to being biographical. Since it took place in Northern Italy, it was a perfect pick for one of my Italian-vacation reads! I read the bulk of this book while in the area that it took place – Milan/Lake Como/Switzerland. It was so fantastic to read the narrator describe Lake Como, as I’m looking out the window at the very lake!
After hearing the story of an Italian teenager, Pino Lella, who helped Jews escape the Nazi’s through the Alps, author Mark Sullivan set out to learn more. After interviewing Pino himself (and several others), Sullivan created Beneath A Scarlet Sky, based on Pino’s story. Since he had created details to fill in gaps of the story, it is technically Historical Fiction and not a Biographical work.
The premise: At the age of 17, Pino is helping lead groups of jewish refugees over the Alps to Switzerland, as part of an underground railroad operation. But once he turns 18, he will be forced into the Italian or German army. His parents pressure him to join the German Army, and due to his love and knowledge of cars, he ends up as the driver for a Third Reich commander. He uses this position to help the Allies, by spying on the Reich and reporting what he learns to the resistance.
In the midst of all of this, Sullivan shares with us the happiness and pain that Pino experiences as he falls in love, as he feels both pride and shame for his actions and as he loses family and friends. Pino witnesses examples of great human spirit as well as a disturbing lack of compassion.
I am always awed by the gruesome happenings of WWII, but I love reading the stories of people that went above and beyond and who didn’t lose hope. If you also enjoy the inspiring stories of everyday people, pick up a copy of Beneath a Scarlet Sky.