Book Cover
Beneath a Scarlet Sky


★ ★ ★

TL;DR: “Pino Lella’s story as a young Italian man during World War 2. Slightly worse than The Nightingale but great story nonetheless. Starting to warm up to war story genre. Strong characters.”

Plot

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.

  • Leyers eventually ends up saving Jews
  • When the Italians win, they shoot Anna for being a traitor since she was the maid of Dolly, Leyers’s mistress

Characters

  • Pino: main character, teenager
  • Mimo: Pino’s brother, fights directly for the resistance. Resents Pino initially, thinks of Pino as a traitor
  • Hans Leyers: Nazi general who Pino drives around after Pino is able to fix his car
  • Anna: beautiful widow who Pino sees before the war starts in earnest and falls in love with. Maid to Leyers’ mistress
  • Father Re: Catholic priest who organizes getting Jews across the border to Switzerland
  • Michele: Pino’s dad
  • Albert: Pino’s uncle, involved with resistance

Themes

  • war
  • coming-of-age
  • secrets
  • romance

Snippets

"Decimation functions psychologically," Leyers explained. "It's designed to quell the threat of revolt through abject fear. But historically, using brutality against civilians in reprisal breeds more hatred than obedience." (235) [Tiger: Leyers showing his human side]

"Anna kissed him a fourth time. Pino thought he heard a woodwind join the strings vibrating in his chest, and his mind and body were reduced to one thing, to the music of Anna-Marta and nothing more." (250)

"How do you find happiness?" [Pino] Anna paused, then said, "You start by looking right around you for the blessings you have. When you find them, be grateful." (260)