Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

by Mark Sullivan

Overview: Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders. Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.

Leslie Swichkow (08/05/18): I enjoy reading historical fiction based in this time period and involving Europe and the plight of the Jews. I agree with the other reviewers that this is a well written narrative with excellent character development. The book explored a theme that is less known and truly captivating. One of my new "favorites" for sure - I had no idea that it was lengthy until I read another review - truly a fast read!
Rating: *****

Faith Bowers (07/29/18): This is a fiction based on true story of a young Italian man who has a good heart and helps as best as he can against the Germans in Milan and the Alps. I learned that the atrocities of World War II in Italy is not widely known because Mussolini, a German ally, was left to run his country for the first half of the war. I learned that 88% of the Jews were able to escape due to Italian efforts. The book is well written with excellent character development of Pino Lella and the antagonist , head of the German war machine in Italy, General Leyers. Though it was 500 pages, I could not put it down and it became a fast read.
Rating: ***

Elaine Marlin (06/20/18): This is an amazing and complex tale based on true history, which author Mark Sullivan, treated as a novel of "biographical and historical" fiction. In the Preface, the author Mark Sullivan, explains how he came to write this novel. He was at a very low point in his life, wondering if life was worth living, looking for a higher purpose, and putting this thought into the atmosphere! He had written many novels of his own, and had collaborated with prolific author James Patterson on other novels. He explains that he was in Bozeman, Montana at a dinner party, when a friend brought up this amazing story in a very difficult period of history, in Milan, Italy during WW II.

The novel centers around a two year period from June 9, 1943 through May 1, 1945. The main character is a young happy-go-lucky Italian, 17 year old Pino Lella, looking for love, as Milan is being overrun by German Nazi soldiers. At first, none of this has anything to do with him, and he is just living his wonderful life, with friends and a good family. The Allies are beginning to bomb nearby, and the Germans maintain a strict control of the city. The Allies are bombing munitions factories in and around Milan. Soon, though, his parents, realizing the danger of their son staying in Milan, send him out of Milan, high up in the mountains at a summer type of camp in a little village north of Lake Como, run by a priest named Father Re. He had fought going, thinking he was too old for this. His younger brother Mimo, had been sent there earlier.

He has a close relationship with Father Re, who is his mentor for the early part of the story. Pino is very athletic, and soon enough, Father Re asks him to practice mountain climbing, finding different routes high up the mountain, to a nearby Swiss border. After several weeks of this , Father Re tells Pino that he wants Pino to take various small groups of strangers with him, on his arduous climbs, to the Swiss border. As it turns out, they are Jews, trying to escape going on the cattle cars to the concentration camp Auschwitz. Pino , through the church, and Father Re, helps several groups of Jews escape, over a long period of time, and also downed Allied pilots. He has grown strong, and feels very good about his life. He befriends a local young man, who teaches him to drive, and in fact learn car racing through the mountain roads.

There is a whole part of the book about a mysterious woman he met by chance before he left Milan. He does not even know anything about her, or even her name, but he is instantly in love. She does factor very heavily in this story

Eventually, back in Milan, he is commanded by his parents to join the German army, thinking that that will prevent him from going to the Italian front. He becomes a driver for a shadowy Nazi named General Hans Leyers, who has him driving all around to various cities. This is a vicious man, who knows how to get people to do him favors. Pino is asked to spy on this General, and he reports activities to his Uncle Albert, who works for the Italian Resistance.

So many unspeakable deaths follow, and nightmarish activities, all observed by Pino. His younger brother Mimo joins the resistance and is very brave. There is a period where Pino's friends and brother, who do not know of his spying, accuse him of being a Nazi. There is an interesting section at the end of the novel, where the author discusses what has happened to each of the main characters. Pino, by now, is an old man in his late 80's. At first, I looked at the length of the book: over 500 pages!! and thought I might not keep interested. However, this story covers two of my most important criteria that keep me interested: it is based on a true account, and it concerns the activities of World War II. I am very glad I found this story, and hope I can encourage you to read it. I think it is going to be made into a movie.
Rating: *****

Dale Israel (07/16/17): Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan tells the story of Pino Lalla, a teenager living in war torn Milan during WWII. Little attention has been given to the Jews living in Italy and the atrocities they faced during the German's regime. This novel portrays life during this era and how one teen aged boy risked his life to save others. It was an engrossing story based on on a true story. Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down which says a lot since I haven't been able to read for more than a year. This is just the kind of book I enjoy and hope I can find another one equally as engaging. I loved it!
Rating: *****

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