Beneath a Scarlet Sky

by Mark Sullivan
Questions for Answer:
  1. Did you like or dislike the book?
  2. How do you think this book might change your thinking or opinions?
  3. Did you find a character (or action of a character) you related to? And if so why?
  1. I loved the book! While historical war novels are not the type of books I typically choose to read, I really did enjoy this one. Thankfully it didn’t contain too much fighting or gore. It captured my attention and because it focused on one person and family, it made me want to read more to find out how these individuals were affected by and survived WWII.
  2. When I think of WWII, I think of Hitler and Pearl Harbor, and all the countless suffering and unnecessary lives that were lost. I think about how the war affected the U.S. and the part we played in the war. But so many other countries and peoples were affected by the war … and since reading this book, I’ll now add Italy and Pino and his family to my list of thoughts when WWII is mentioned or discussed.
    While this book added a dimension to my thoughts on WWII, it didn’t change my opinion whatsoever on war. No matter – war is ugly, hateful, with the death of many innocent people. And even more frustrating, is that many times those causing the war and carrying out heinous crimes against innocent people, end up, like General Leyers, going free and significantly profiting off the people they hurt and killed.
  3. While I’d love to say I related to Mimo, who did and fought for what he believed in, no matter what the consequences might be, I probably would have to say I related more to Pino’s Mom, who decided to take her daughter and run and hide. My instinct and greatest priority would have been to protect my children, and if that meant talking my sons into joining forces with the enemy so they would survive, I possibly would have done that. If it meant running to protect a daughter, I’d have done that also.
    I think the biggest question I had throughout the book was why did Pino not kill General Leyers. I think Pino likely would have affected history had he killed General Leyers, as Leyers seemed to be working all alone in Northern Italy, without a second in command. He had so many opportunities, and the heinous things he saw the General do, why he didn’t kill him, like Tito, I cannot explain. Was it the thought that if he killed the General, he’d lose his source of information … was it his religious upbringing “thou shalt not kill” that stopped him … all I know is that this was an 18-year old boy with raging hormones, who did what his parents told him to do, and while I don’t understand why he didn’t kill General Leyers, it isn’t my place to judge. What Pino did or didn’t do was what was right for him, at the time, given the situation.
    My only other comment – Pino was one lucky SOB! He must have been born under a “lucky star” for all the times he came “within a hair” of dying!
  1. I disliked this book! It’s the first WW2 book I’ve read outside of school, and it was just so tragically sad. Perhaps that’s the point, but I just felt like Pino would come across a situation and the next would somehow be even more horrific. And it happened over and over and over again, right up until the end of the book! UGH! It was such a downer it took me FOREVER to complete because I would be reading and just couldn’t handle all that was going on so I’d have to put it down for a spell before picking it back up.
  2. While I might not have enjoyed this book, it did change my opinions and thinking of war. I feel like Pino’s story gave me a unique look at how the war changed everything for everyone, which is certainly not how war in America is like today. I felt the culture of the war in a way I that hadn’t been captured in the other WW2 books I’ve read.
  3. I really related to Anna’s pleading “I’m just a maid!” right before her death by the firing squad. She was just doing her job, and that job happened to be for Dalle who just so happened to be Lyre’s mistress. I felt her death was unjustified and fueled by hate and shows how cruel people can be. Anna’s death hit me the hardest, and it took me a month before I was able to pick up the book again after that.
  1. At first, I found it a little slow and repetitive, but then I began to understand that while written in the third person, it was still written in the voice of Pino … and then the writing made more sense.
    The story kept me up at nights wondering if all this could really be true…. And I suppose I now believe it was very likely true, but still one has to ask, how on earth could things like this have happened?
    Awhile ago I read “All Quiet on the Western Front” and found it completely worthy of its reputation. Since then I thought I would try reading more war novels. Having made this decision, I bought two novels, and this was the second of the two. The other was called “The Nightingale” and between the two, I’d recommend it even more. Having said that, I couldn’t put this book down, and I’m very glad I read it.
  2. How does it change my thinking? Well, I like reading war novels or watching war movies because I’m always intrigued that humans acted, or more importantly, could act this way again. Reading books of this type often serve as motivation to disregard intolerance and hate…. Sadly, my “Beneath a Scarlett Sky” thinking is: we see far too much of that these days.
  3. For me, the person I associated with was Mimo, the younger brother of Pino. If you recall, he was furious with Pino because he believed he was collaborating with the Nazi’s. Now, I know it’s true, Pino was acting as an informant, and that would have been the right thing to do under the right circumstances, but I was constantly reminded that General Leyers was acting absolutely alone. And that is where my identify with Pino failed, and my association with Mimo strengthen.
    If General Leyers was the head of an identifiable group, a team working together, then spying would have been the correct course because removing the General would have simply been a provisional problem for that chain of command - someone would have taken over in the General’s absence.
    But that was not the case.
    The novel constantly demonstrated that General Leyers had no backup, he was acting alone, and he made decisions without direction or communication. If this had in fact been the case, I would have cut the head off that snake, sooner rather than later, by turning him and his precious valise over to the Italian resistance.
    Regardless, Pino did what he believed was right and obviously risked his life many times to save others. I wouldn’t judge in any way harshly…. but I do believe, like Mino, I would have taken a different tack.
    I also found it noteworthy and without coincidence that the novel started by Pino expressing his teenage interest in girls. Clearly, throughout the novel, his focus and attention was driven by his affection for Anna, but ultimately I wondered if his actions did the same. Of course, that is only human, but there were so many events occurring during this time in history that were not human, I wondered if his judgement would have better been served if he had been born a few years prior.
    I give the book two thumbs up.